Beautiful disaster after snow storm strikes central North Island

"A beautiful disaster."

That's how farmers at Rangitaiki describe a weekend snow storm that devastated the area - shutting highways, cutting power supplies for days and wreaking havoc to farm buildings and fence lines and threatening stock.

The extent of the damage caused by the heaviest dump of snow in the area since local weather records started 54 years ago, left around 200 homes at Rangitaiki without power.

Power was restored to the larger stations by Tuesday after generators were brought in but Unison Networks don't expect normal power to be restored for up to three weeks.

Locals said it was difficult to describe the extent of the damage and most people outside the area had no idea of the devastation.

"People just think it was a pretty snowy wonderland.

"For us it's been more like a beautiful disaster," a spokeswoman at Lochinver Station told the Taupo & Turangi Weekender.

She said a couple of carports, a seed shed and hay barn roofs had caved in under the weight of the snow. Helicopters were being used to take staff out to check on stock stranded in remote parts of the station to carve out trails in the snow and drop off feed.

The manager of neighbouring 1790ha Taharua Station, Paul O'Hagan, says cows were milked for the first time on Tuesday.

He says the storm hit right at the start of calving and couldn't have come at a worse time.
"We had cows being born in a howling snow storm.

"There's been stress on people, stress on stock and we've already spent hours feeding and rescuing animals."

Most of the fences on the property had also gone.

A roof on a calf shed had collapsed but fortunately no stock were injured.

He said his wife had been cooking meals for people who didn't have power, but most houses on the station had electricity by Tuesday night, thanks to generators.

He says another clean-up will be needed when the snow melts and everything turns to "mud and muck".

"It's just what happens and we're all coping. To live in this environment you have to."

Rangitaiki School was also damaged and was expected to remain closed for the rest of the week. On Tuesday snow was still more than half a metre thick in areas where Unison's network was most severely hit.

Unison Networks said cross-country access continued to be the biggest challenge in restoring power to the area.

Sub-zero temperatures and black ice also caused problems for crews trying to determine the extent of the damage. Unison has also been liaising with locals along with Federated Farmers, Dairy NZ and Rural Support Services.

Taupo District Council's civil defence emergency management team were assisting with response efforts and helping with snow clearing.

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