Key Points:

  • A state of emergency remains in force in Waitaki, Dunedin, Christchurch and Selwyn
  • More rain is predicted for today
  • Dunedin's Taieri Plain heading for second-largest flood
  • Motorists should avoid non-essential travel
  • Dunedin airport is operational so the rugby is ON!

Roads in Otago are reopening as the wild weather eases, but police say drivers still need to be careful.

They asked road users to plan ahead before getting behind the wheel.

Civil Defence earlier waned residents to exercise extreme caution due to widespread flooding.

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State Highway 1 has reopened from Waikouaiti to Waitat and from Mosgiel to Milton, as has State Highway 87 from Kokonga to Outram and from Pukeuri to Omarama and State Highway 8 from Omarama to Tarras.

However, these roads still have a lot of surface flooding, or snow and ice, and could be hazardous, police say.

State Highway 8 from Milton to Raes Junction and State Highway 1 from Milton to Balclutha are still closed by flooding.

But motorists have ignored signs and police advice and still tried to travel these routes, which police say is incredibly dangerous and that the roads are closed for a reason.

They urged drivers to check the condition of each road they will be using on NZTA's website before they get in the car.

Those on the road must follow signs and authorities' advice, slow down, turn their lights on and adjust their speed and driving behaviour to the conditions.

Sub-zero temperatures overnight in Canterbury and Otago are likely to cause hazardous driving conditions on many routes from around 4am onwards.

The NZ Transport Agency and local council roading crews are set to apply grit to the road so please take care in the morning on both ice and gritted roads.

NZTA has reminded drivers needing to travel tonight to take extra care and build in time for long journeys as widespread road closures and warnings due to floodwaters, slips damage and snow could make travelling extremely dangerous right across the region.

"Please slow down in these conditions and adhere to the posted temporary speed restrictions. Be aware that not all flooded roads are signposted," a Civil Defence update said.

Road closures are in place in Dunedin, Waitaki, Maniototo, Ida Valley and the Clutha District.

Rivers have begun to recede across Otago with the exception of the Taieri, which is still fluctuating at high levels.

Civil Defence said the Taieri River is expected to remain high regardless of whether more rainfall occurs, however it is considered stable at this stage. Sandbags and rocks have been used to plug most of a hole that was letting water back under the pumphouse at pressure from the Taieri into Mill Creek.

Kaitangata volunteers were sandbagging low lying parts of the town and there were some self evacuations but Civil Defence did not need to activate the welfare centre, which was on standby.

Contractors have started clearing the mouth of the Clutha River to help with water flows.

Civil Defence has told those in Omakau, Patearoa or Ophir need to boil water, while Ranfurly and Naseby residents are asked to conserve water.

There is some sewerage leakage in the Oamaru township.

Otago school principals have begun discussion with the Ministry for Education and Civil Defence regarding the return to school on Monday.

Should any closures be necessary, schools will notify their community via their normal channels.

Water levels are continuing to rise in Christchurch, seeing significant flooding of the Heathcote River ahead of the next high tide.

As night falls, Christchurch City Council has warned those who evacuated their homes near the river to not return overnight. Those who did not evacuate have been told to remain in their homes for safety reasons, now that it is dark.

The next high tide will be just after 3.40am tomorrow.

The Linwood Civil Defence Centre for welfare assistance at Linwood High School will close at 8pm. The centre is providing accommodation for two people overnight. If needed, it will reopen tomorrow.

Residents are urged to contact the Council Call Centre on 0800 800 169 if they are concerned or want help to evacuate.

Police will be patrolling areas where people have evacuated and response teams will be on standby overnight in case any more evacuations are needed. More road closures were also likely due to slips in the area.

Motorists are being urged to drive carefully and slowly.

Community and Public Health have advised residents that flooded houses are likely to be contaminated.

They said anyone who come into contact with flood water, should wash their hands thoroughly.

The Christchurch water supply remains safe to drink. However, the Council said several wastewater pump stations have been flooded and are not keeping up with the inflow so wastewater is overflowing into streets.

As a result, everyone in Christchurch and Banks Peninsula has been asked to limit water use that produces wastewaster like flushing, washing and showering until the rain has stopped for a few hours.

Further south, Timaru residents have started a big clean up as the state of emergency in the area has been lifted.

The rain has begun to ease in Dunedin, however the state of emergency for the city continues.

Dunedin Civil Defence controller David Campbell said Dunedin City Council staff, contractors, emergency services and Civil Defence personnel continue to respond as quickly as they can to weather-related issues based on priority.

Campbell said the main areas of concern were the Taieri River, which remains high, slips and other widespread issues throughout the roading network.

Civil Defence has evacuated several rural properties in the Mill Creek area, Taieri because of concerns about the structure of the pump station due to high river flows.

There are approximately 26 slips on roads across the city, including on Ravenswood St in St Clair which has been closed and where 12 houses have been evacuated due to a slip.

Another slip on Harington Point Rd has effectively cut off residents on the Otago Peninsula north of Harwood. Clearance work is not expect until at least Monday.

Otakou marae has carried out door knocking in the area and have supported welfare needs.

Motorists should avoid all non-essential travel today across the roading network, but particularly in the Taieri and Peninsula areas.

"People need to be aware there will be widespread debris and damage on roads, and motorists will not be able to tell the depth of floodwaters," said Campbell.

Flooding from the Heathcote River around Eastern Terrace, Christchurch. Photo: SNPA / David Alexander
Flooding from the Heathcote River around Eastern Terrace, Christchurch. Photo: SNPA / David Alexander

Earlier Christchurch residents near the Heathcote river were asked to evacuate their homes as water levels were expected to peak during high tide.

The Christchurch City Council issued the message to residents whose homes had previously flooded after the earthquakes.

In particular residents at Clarendon Terrace, Richardson Terrace, Hunter Terrace, Eastern Terrace, Riverlaw Terrace, Palatine Terrace, Ford Road near Louison Place and Waimea Terrace were expected to be affected, and anybody in low lying areas.

Residents of the city had been asked to stay home as emergency services become stretched amidst flooding, road closures and ghastly weather.

Civil Defence also issued warnings to Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere residents, as flooding was expected due to high water levels.

A state of emergency was called by the Christchurch City Council on Saturday morning, after the Heathcote River burst its banks on Friday.

Chris Hawker, Otago civil defence emergency manager addresses the key concerns in the region following flooding.

Read more:
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The region had been plagued with heavy rain and surface flooding and many roads are closed throughout the region, including State Highway 75 to Akaroa between Halswell and Little River.

Banks Peninsula is not accessible, following closures to Gebbies Pass and Dyers Pass Rd.

The warning extends to the Selwyn District and is the fourth region in the country to declare an emergency, joining Timaru, Dunedin and Waitaki, following Friday's storm.

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel announced the move at midday on Saturday as a "precautionary measure" to allow the region to prepare fully for any issues that may arise with the high tide due this afternoon.

At 1pm Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management was warning Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere residents to move stock or evacuate, as weather conditions worsened there.

It said Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere had risen "significantly" and the lake was unable to be opened because of a large swell overtopping the beach.

The lake is the largest in Canterbury and has no outlet to the sea.

Continued rain was only expected to raise the lake's levels and flooding of low lying areas was expected.

Residents in those areas were directed to evacuate if they felt unsafe or anxious, and to move stock.

In the meantime hundreds of residents in Ilam and Riccarton were without power with residents in Redwood and Pirita also reporting outages.

Little River and Akaroa Harbour residents were also asked to conserve water, as supplies became stretched due to dirty stream intakes and longer treatment times.

Wastewater pump stations had flooded and waste water was reported to be flowing on to streets. Residents in Christchurch and Banks Peninsula were asked to limit showering, washing and flushing.

Canterbury residents have been asked by police to stay home where possible and avoid unnecessary rubbernecking.

Canterbury police's Senior Sergeant James Bothamley said police had attended a number of incidents where people were only travelling to look at destruction and weather.

"Just please be aware that by heading out in these conditions you could end up taking valuable emergency services away from critical rescue operations," he said.

Senior Sergeant Bothamley said the weather issues were "ongoing" and that surface flooding was creating hazardous conditions for drivers.

"We thank these residents for their ongoing co-operation and the media for continuing to share these messages," he said.

Christchurch City Council was providing regular updates on its website.

ROAD CLOSURES

Emmett St - from Shirley Rd to Orontes St
River Rd - from Banks Ave to Medway St
Dyers Pass Rd - from Sign of the Kiwi to Governors Bay
Riverlaw Tce - from Tennyson St to Hansons Park
New Brighton Rd - from Kingsford St to Lake Terrace Rd
Eastern Tce - from Tennyson St to Malcolm Ave
Palatine Tce - from Tennyson St to Cashmere Rd
Hunter Tce - from Malcolm Ave to Colombo St
Waimea Tce - from Colombo St to Malcolm Ave
Fifield Tce - From St Martins Rd (Cul de sac)
Aynsley Tce - Opawa Rd to Port Hills Rd
Aynsley Tce - from Clarendon Tce to Opawa Rd
Avonside Dr - from Torlesse Rd to Wainoni Rd
Ford Rd - at Louisson Pl
Richardson Tce - From Brougham St to Ferry Rd
Clarendon Tce - at Brougham St Bridge
Cumnor Tce - from Garlands Rd to Marshs Rd
Ernlea Tce - from Stour Bridge St to Colombo St

The Selwyn District Council is warning residents to stay away from the fast-rising Selwyn River in Canterbury.

Up to 50 people are either being evacuated or are choosing to leave themselves near the river.

Flooding from the Heathcote River around Eastern Terrace, Christchurch. Photo: SNPA / David Alexander
Flooding from the Heathcote River around Eastern Terrace, Christchurch. Photo: SNPA / David Alexander

Police have closed State Highway 1 at the Selwyn River bridge due to flooding, with the road closed between the bridge and Dunsandel.

The council said an initial state of emergency was declared earlier this morning in the Springs Ward.

The Selwyn River has already overtopped on its northern side, and the extended declaration will cover any issues on the southern side.

River levels are anticipated to continue rising due to continuing rain, and floodwaters joining the river from higher elevations.

Council staff are also monitoring levels on the Halswell River near Tai Tapu and the Hawkins River west of State Highway 1.

Evacuations are continuing at Upper and Lower Selwyn Huts. Other residents in low-lying areas are also self-evacuating.

An evacuation centre has been established at Lincoln Event Centre.

Resident Craig Ashby, who lives just below Coes Ford, said the river had began flowing through some houses.

Ashby says he and his flatmates - who are on a small farm - and a couple next door are grabbing everything and getting out in a self-evacuation.

He says they've let all the chickens out, have left the windows open and a whole heap of food for the cats.

Reports of people rubbernecking in the area are of concern - people should stay out of the area unless absolutely necessary as road conditions are extremely challenging.

The council is urging people to avoid unnecessary travel as extensive surface flooding remains over much of the district, and has urged said farmers with stock in the area to make decisions now on whether to move animals.

Precautionary boil water notices have been issued for Acheron, Hororata, Malvern Hills and Springfield.

More rain is predicted for Canterbury with up to 50mm due to fall, gradually easing in the afternoon. Much of Christchurch is also flooded, after the Heathcote river burst its banks.

Heavy rain about Dunedin should ease this morning. Snow is likely to about 600-700 metres over Central Otago and the MacKenzie Basin.

Slip at Ravenswood, Dunedin, has forced evacuations. Picture / Police
Slip at Ravenswood, Dunedin, has forced evacuations. Picture / Police
Slip over railway tracks near Lampden, Dunedin. Picture / Police
Slip over railway tracks near Lampden, Dunedin. Picture / Police

In Dunedin, a slip has forced evacuations in a central street.

Civil Defence Controller Sue Bidrose said residents were being asked to move from Ravenswood Rd in the seaside suburb of St Clair this morning.

"I know about it because some of the people are friends of mine and they're coming here. I'm just making up the bed in the spare room now," she said.

Bidrose had gone home to catch a couple of hours shut-eye after a busy night.

"My friends called and said 'we can bloody see it from our house' but I don't know how bad it is yet," Bidrose said.

Three homes were evacuated.

Meanwhile, all eyes remain on the Taieri River south of the city after predictions it would rise to near-record levels today as high tide hit, around 1pm.

Flooding on Dukes Road near Mosgiel Dunedin. Picture / Otago Daily Times
Flooding on Dukes Road near Mosgiel Dunedin. Picture / Otago Daily Times

More than 100 homes were evacuated from the plains near the river in the middle of last night, and the remaining nearby householders were warned to be prepared to leave if conditions change.

Slip over railway tracks near Lampden, Dunedin. Picture / Police
Slip over railway tracks near Lampden, Dunedin. Picture / Police

Farmers on the Taieri Plains were given two hours to grab valuables and "just go" as the swollen river looked set to breach its banks last night.

Civil Defence staff visited Josh Adam's sheep, beef and dairy farm in Henley about 9.30pm and gave him and wife Ellie-May two hours to evacuate the property, he said.

They called around some friends who helped move valuables to higher ground.

"We just threw everything up on the beds and hoped for the best," he told the Otago Daily Times.

They took treasured items - such as wedding photos - with them.

A slip was halfway across a flooded road as they left the property, he said.

At 4.30am flood levels at Outram were at the second highest level ever recorded, at 1825 cumecs and the river was still rising, officials said.

Oamaru Creek bursts its banks 21 July 2017. Picture / Oamaru Today
Oamaru Creek bursts its banks 21 July 2017. Picture / Oamaru Today

Rain has continued to fall overnight, with 40mm in Dunedin since midnight.

Highways throughout Otago are closed, and the peninsula is cut off by several major slips.

VIEW STATE HIGHWAY CLOSURES HERE.

Soldiers were called to help with the chaos, including rescuing nine people trapped in and on cars on State Highway 87 early this morning. A unimog transported the occupants to safety.

"The information at this stage suggests this will be one of the biggest floods on record in the Taieri," Bidrose said last night.

People need to be aware there will be widespread debris and damage and motorists must drive carefully and to the conditions, she said.

Flooding at All Day Bay Oamaru. Picture /Emma Strange
Flooding at All Day Bay Oamaru. Picture /Emma Strange

"We are asking people to respect road signs and avoid driving through floodwaters if possible. If they have to drive through surface water, please do so very slowly."

Further north, about 1500 people in settlements near Timaru were told to leave their homes as water levels rose.

Dunedin, Waitaki and Timaru are all under a state of emergency as heavy rains sweep the south island

In Dunedin, stormwater systems were unable to cope with the deluge. People were warned to avoid contaminated floodwaters.

The council had appealed for volunteers to help fill sandbags to protect low-lying properties.

Flooding on State Highway 1 in Timaru. Photo / Bradley Family
Flooding on State Highway 1 in Timaru. Photo / Bradley Family

Yesterday, there were fears the storm could affect tonight's big South Island Super Rugby quarterfinal in Christchurch. The Highlanders were unable to fly out of Dunedin and were looking at a four-and-a-half hour bus trip north. However, the airport is now open.

Fields underwater at Maheno near Oamaru 21 July 2017. Picture / Stephen Hinds
Fields underwater at Maheno near Oamaru 21 July 2017. Picture / Stephen Hinds

Soldiers moved into Timaru late yesterday to help the city cope with the storm. Intense rain caused slips and road closures.

A Timaru District Council official said 24 personnel and nine trucks had been deployed after evacuation warnings were issued. In a Facebook posting, the council warned residents in low-lying areas to leave their homes.

Welfare centres were set up in Temuka, Pleasant Point and Timaru.

The winter storm brings a months rain in one hour to areas around Timaru, causing widespread flooding

Forecast for Saturday

Auckland was hit with heavy showers, including hail and thunderstorms yesterday, in a month with just two rain-free days so far.

The Metservice said further rain was due to fall today, although showers would ease in the afternoon.

Strong winds were also likely, Metservice forecaster Tuporo Masters said, with strong north-westerlies striking the north, while Wellington would be hit by a strong southerly.

"The winds in Wellington will strengthen up to gale force by the afternoon," Masters said. "It's a very complex situation across the country at the moment, really dynamic."

"The whole system is rotating around the country like a washing machine in a spin cycle."

Further south, Canterbury and to a lesser extent Dunedin, would face the remnants of yesterday's storm, bringing more rain to an already sodden region.

Masters said the east coast of the South Island could expect another 50mm today, gradually easing in the afternoon.

"On top of the rain they've already had, that's going to mean they're completely saturated, their catchments are already overwhelmed," he said.

"It will ease, but because the ground is already waterlogged anything on top of what they've had won't help."

Dunedin City Council have evacuated residents in Mosgiel and the Tairi Plain as rain continues to fall across the region