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Queenstown's Lake Wakatipu water levels have fallen slightly during two hours to noon and the region's lake monitoring officer says any flooding of businesses is likely to be limited to waves caused by wind.

Otago Regional Council released the latest lake level figures at 1pm.
River lake monitoring spokesman John Threlfall said the lake was still likely to creep up all day.

But flow levels in rivers feeding the lake were falling and there was minimal rain forecast, suggesting the lake might only rise by a further 10cm.

With the flood prevention measures already in place, this was unlikely to cause a significant impact, Mr Threlfall said.

MetService forecaster Ian Gall said winds were dropping off and any rainfall would only be insignificant light showers both around Queenstown and at Lake Wakatipu's headwaters.

"Basically, it's all over," Mr Gall said.

However, a further rain front is forecast to hit the area on Monday. The regional council's Mr Threlfall said the lake would take seven to 10 days to drain.

Mayor Clive Geddes said Monday's forecast was not seen as a "particular threat at all", but more advice would be received tomorrow.

"We're pretty comfortable where we find ourselves today," Mr Geddes said. The next 24 hours were unlikely to bring any significant flooding, he said.

Mayor Clive Geddes said this morning that the single biggest concern was that brisk westerlies would waves up to 0.5m high in Queenstown bay,

Mr Geddes said at 8am the lake had already risen to its "threshold" level where water overflowed on to streets and parks. It would steadily rise at 1cm an hour all day, he said.

The waves would flood more water on to the streets, he said.

"We cannot yet dismiss that the flooding of some premises could occur later today or into tomorrow."

Some businesses near the lakefront decided to open this morning, including Wilkinsons Pharmacy and a souvenir shop.

One hotel on the lakefront, Eichardt's Private Hotel, said water had not yet spilled on to lakefront streets.

From an office window looking out on the bay at 10.50am, Real Journey Queenstown general manager operations Tracey Maclaren said the lake was moderately choppy - not enough to cause concern.

"We're quite comfortable [with the situation]. People are walking along the wharf in front of me and there's no danger," Ms Maclaren said.

The lake had not yet spilled on to the wharf, she said.

Denver Lee, manager for Positive Image Kodak Express told weatherwatch.co.nz that Queenstown's CBD was calm.

"In fact the local feeling is that the threat is on its way out, and so I imagine many businesses will start to consider putting things back to normal."

But Mayor Geddes said Queenstown's iconic Bathhouse restaurant - right on the lakefront - had already flooded and a cafe in the town's oldest building was also affected.

About 30 other businesses near the lakefront had prepared for flooding by sandbagging their entrances.

"It's very much wait and see," Mr Geddes said.

Late last night, business owners and helpers in the central business district were still sandbagging premises ahead of a predicted lake level peak of 312.2m. The town centre had been closed to vehicles.

As some roads and reserves on the shores of Lake Wakatipu flooded yesterday, the Queenstown Lakes District Council warned businesses to prepare for more of the same following heavy rainfall.

In the worst-case scenario, about 35 businesses in the Queenstown central business district could be affected, as well as several buildings in smaller lakeside towns, Mayor Geddes said. Many of the premises were evacuated yesterday and merchandise and fittings removed.

"We are not going to be in the position that we were in 1999 ... [when the attitude was]'Don't worry about it, in a couple of days it will be gone'. We have in place much better data than was available in'99."

Insurance companies paid out $46 million to businesses after floods in 1999, the Otago Daily Times reported.

Many floodprone businesses have not been able to get insurance since then.

MetService reported last night that the last in a series of heavy storm fronts had crossed Fiordland and the Otago headwaters, and the rain there had eased.

The Novotel Queenstown Lakeside hotel shifted guests from its bottom floor and cleared furniture from rooms that could be affected.

Large pipes and concrete blocks were installed on the waterfront to help deflect any potential wave action, while a boom was in place to keep debris from building up in Queenstown Bay. Sandbagging stations had been set up.

Earlier this week heavy rain in Southland disrupted tramping tracks, forcing helicopter evacuations of more than 100 trampers.

The Department of Conservation said a bridge on the Routeburn had been "competely destroyed" and would take two or three months to fix.

- Jarrod Booker, OTAGO DAILY TIMES, NZHERALD STAFF