Land slip blocks road to Milford Sound

A rockslide blocked access to Milford Sound as gales and driving rain sweep across New Zealand today.

Boulders weighing up to 200 tonnes crashed onto the Milford Road trapping staff and visitors at the popular tourist destination.

The New Zealand Transport Authority closed the road yesterday afternoon, due to extreme weather and the risk of avalanche activity.

Geotechnical experts are now on site carrying out aerial inspections to assess safety risks before workers can begin clearing debris.

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The road will be closed for several days, depending on how long it will take to break the large rocks apart and remove them.

Because the road was closed at 4pm yesterday, most visitors had left Milford.

An overnight Real Journeys cruise docked this morning, and the company is likely to fly those visitors out. Staff and visitors remaining in Milford would be kept informed of timing as assessments of the situation continue.

The slip comes during a weekend of wild weather as a "deep complex low" sweeps eastwards across New Zealand.

Falling branches knocked out power in parts of Auckland today.

Vector power company said some areas of Rodney, Helensville and Greenhithe are still without electricity.

The wild weather also kept the fire service busy in the North Island.

Fireservice spokesman Scott Osmond said they attended more than 70 weather-related calls from Auckland to Rotorua.

Most were related to downed trees and branches .

"A few buildings were also damaged by high winds especially in downtown Auckland," Mr Osmond added.

"There's a couple in central Auckland - one apartment building had some damage to a roof but nothing major.''

"Almost all of them are related to trees down, trees down either on roads or on power lines and one or two with some building damage, but nothing major.''

Mr Osmond said there have been no reports of injury.

It's a different story in the South Island.

Fire Service Spokesman Andrew Norris said despite the nasty weather they haven't had too many call outs.

"We've had a couple of crews out checking several buildings in Christchurch where there was reports of loose roofing iron and similar problems but nothing major at all and most crews have remained on station for the day.''

Philip Duncan of WeatherWatch said there's very heavy rain across the west coast of the South Island and some isolated thunderstorms popping up as well.

The wild weather will linger for some time as the big low starts to deepen around the eastern side of the South Island and the high winds will continue, he added.

"We're seeing very, very strong winds blowing around the Auckland region especially, but also Bay of Plenty there are gusts around 100-120 kilometres an hour in those areas so blustery, blustery winds on the outer edges of this low.''

But Mr Duncan said the sunshine could return next week in the top of the country.

"We do have a high in the Tasman that's going to move in after all the rubbish goes through this weekend and that high is going to especially effect the top of the country.

"Next week does look fairly settled, but not perfect by a long shot.''

And the forecast for Labour weekend next weekend is a typically mixed bag.

Mr Duncan said a large high would be in the picture, centred north of New Zealand, allowing for lows to challenge it from the south.

Holidaymakers should prepare for some rain, but the data was leaning towards dry and windy for many regions.

"It looks as though we'll have a large high trying to spread towards us from Australia but it may be a little too far north to fully protect the country. That means we'll see a battle between low and high pressure directly over us and that can mean windy weather.''

A weak low and south west change on the Friday and Saturday could see a few showers mostly in the west and south. Chance of rain was 60 per cent for the South Island and dropped to 30 per cent as you head north.

"Generally speaking there is a moderate risk of showers on Friday and Saturday then mostly dry for Sunday and Monday but perhaps a bit windy for central and southern areas,'' Mr Duncan said.

-Herald Online with Newstalk ZB

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