Nearly 200 people have been evacuated overnight throughout the South Island as rivers breached banks and flooded homes, hotels and holiday parks.

In Franz Josef 186 people - mainly tourists - were forced to leave their holiday accommodation in the early hours of the morning and seek refuge in a local community hall when the Waiho River breached its banks and carved a new channel through the Scenic Circle Hotel.

Westland Civil Defence Public Information Andy Thompson said a state of civil defence was declared at 2am after two hotels and a large campsite was inundated by rising floodwaters.

More than 100 tourists were forced to leave their campsites in the Top 10 Holiday Park and 16 people were evacuated from Westwood Lodge when the properties were inundated by rising floodwaters.


Mr Thompson said the river had carved a new channel about 1km north of the Franz Josef township and was now racing through the Scenic Circle Hotel where 70 staff and guests were evacuated just before midnight.

The Red Cross were now providing welfare to the stranded holidaymakers.

This morning contractors using heavy machinery were attempting to put in rock protection to shore up the breached river bank, he said.

Franz Josef village had been left without water and residents were being advised to save whatever water they had.

Engineers were on their way to try and fix the problem.

Franz Josef Top 10 Holiday Park near the Franz Josef Glacier on the West Coast.
Franz Josef Top 10 Holiday Park near the Franz Josef Glacier on the West Coast.

Further north Tasman District Council said a small number of homes were evacuated after intense rain left the Riwaka River in flood.

The evacuated families were being taken to the nearby Riwaka Hotel carpark where they were being helped by police and firefirefighters.

A Civil Defence Centre was on standby in Motueka ready to be opened if needed with a Civil Defence response team onsite at Riwaka to help emergency services. A helicopter would go up at first light to survey the damage.

The flooding had closed State Highway 60 at Riwaka with no detour available. The road was also impassible between Upper Takaka and Collingwood.

State Highway 6 at Franz Josef was open but there was a warning in place and motorists were urged to drive with caution.