Evacuated residents will be allowed back to Gore this evening as Southland begins to enter recovery mode from a massive flooding event.

Emergency Management Southland controller Angus McKay said at a briefing this evening that the situation in Gore was looking "really positive" and the about 2400 evacuated residents would be allowed back at 6pm.


Rivers were still running at close to peak levels in Mataura so while there had been no significant breached yet it was a case of "watch and wait".

Residents in Wyndham and closer to the coast would remain evacuated overnight.

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Read more:
• Live: Third Southland town told to flee floods
• Fears of toxic gas clouds as floodwaters threaten Southland chemical stash

McKay was speaking as Civil Defence authorities and Rural Communities Minister Damien O'Connor updated the situation in Southland where a state of emergency remains in force.

O'Connor, who had flown over the affected areas, said the response to the flooding event had been "absolutely amazing".

"It seems as though everything is under control ... but clearly we are going to have to wait and see when the water goes down the extent of the damage."

The Government has declared the flooding in Southland and Otago to be a medium scale adverse event, opening the way for extra support to be offered to farmers and growers.

$100,000 dollars is being made available through Rural Support Trusts to speed up recovery and provide technical advice.

O'Connor said this was initial funding and more money may be available as the full extent of the damage to farms is revealed over the coming days.

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong praised the response from civil defence authorities and singled out the emergency response in Milford as "fantastic".

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"The extensiveness of the damage in there is mind-boggling. It's a wonder we did not lose a life in there.

To get those 195 visitors out of there today was a good effort he said.

Mataura, Wyndham and large parts of Gore have all been evacuated and rising river levels have inundated ow-lying homes, businesses and farms in Gore.

The Clutha River approaches the top of the Barnego Rd flood bank next to Balcrom Concrete in Balclutha about 8.45am today. Photo / Richard Davison, ODT
The Clutha River approaches the top of the Barnego Rd flood bank next to Balcrom Concrete in Balclutha about 8.45am today. Photo / Richard Davison, ODT

DairyNZ reports more than 100 farms are affected and says it is a "dire situation for many right now"

Authorities have sought to allay fears of the threat posed by floodwater inundating an old paper mill in Mataura where chemicals are stored, but there remains a risk gas could be released if water reaches the chemicals.

The Clutha River rises in Balclutha. Photo / Craig Baxter, ODT
The Clutha River rises in Balclutha. Photo / Craig Baxter, ODT

The NZDF announced this afternoon that the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) NH90 helicopter left RNZAF Base Ohakea for Invercargill this morning and would carry out flights to assess damage and assist in evacuations near Mataura, Gore and Wyndham.
Two New Zealand Army Unimog trucks, each with four soldiers from 2/4 Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, were in Mataura this afternoon, where they were helping police evacuate people from the area.

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NZDF liaison officers were working with Civil Defence Emergency Management Southland to coordinate tasks for the NZDF personnel and resources as part of the civil defence emergency in the region.

Southern District Health Board sets up emergency operations centre

Southern DHB has set up an emergency operations centre (EOC) in response to rising water levels in the Mataura River, with the risk of flooding, and road closures in the affected areas.

The EOC is currently working to support Civil Defence Southland, and to ensure staff and patients in facilities in the affected areas are safe from potential flooding, and that all health needs are met.

Southern DHB EOC is also assisting a number of age residential care facilities in the affected areas who are at risk of flooding to evacuate residents to alternate accommodation, and are currently coordinating placement beds.

18 residents of Wyndham and Districts Community Rest Home were evacuated to Mimihau Hall in Wyndham, Southland earlier today.

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To ensure these residents receive the most appropriate care, the Southern DHB EOC has coordinated a helicopter to uplift the 18 residents from Mimihau Hall to Southland Hospital by helicopter.

Four of these residents will be cared for at Southland Hospital, and the remaining 14 will be taken to age residential care facilities in the Invercargill area.

Earlier, the Clutha District Council has issued an alert to people in low-lying areas of the Balclutha township that there is a risk of flooding from a potential breach of the Hospital Road Detention flood bank. This is not the primary flood bank for the Balclutha township.

As a precaution, the Council is advising people to be prepared in case an evacuation is ordered.

MetService weather warnings around the region have all been lifted. Our estimations for the Southern Lakes have not significantly changed, with Lake Wakatipu and Wanaka both expected to peak short of presenting any significant flood issues.

Last night Cadogan declared a state of emergency.

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Rising river levels in Southland and Otago continue to keep highways around Southland and Otago towns closed this morning and into the early afternoon, the NZ Transport Agency said.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Journey Manager Peter Brown said the Clutha and Mataura [rivers] are expected to peak around midday or early afternoon and until that occurs, the highways surrounding towns like Gore remain closed.

Some motorists hoping to head south are stuck in South Otago.

Clinton woman Jo-anne Thomson, of Food for Thought dairy, said several trucks had been parked in the town overnight.

Some other customers who had come through had returned from Elton John last night and were trying to make their way south, but could not because the roads were closed.

People were being "pretty patient".

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Truck drivers had said they thought the roads would be open later today.

Otago travellers planning to drive to Southland are being asked not to start driving south until the state highways have reopened.

Otago Civil Defence Group Controller Richard Saunders said people should stay where they are, rather than heading south and waiting at roadblocks or in towns along the way.

SH1 is closed between Clinton and Gore, as are the alternative routes SH93 Clinton to Mataura and SH90 Tapanui to McNab. SH6 is closed between Frankton and Lumsden. Local roads in all these areas are also affected, and there are no detours.

"With the risk of further flooding in Balclutha, we want to avoid having travellers waiting in the town today. We also ask people to respect "road closed" signs and barriers, which are there for safety.

Intending travellers should check the NZTA website.

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DCC general manager city services Sandy Graham said, "Now that the city [Dunedin] is returning to normal, we're able to support our Clutha neighbours who are under a State of Emergency and are experiencing far worse conditions, by providing staff and resources to help them through this difficult time."