Weather: Dregs of Cyclone Debbie pass over New Zealand

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  • The Bay of Plenty town of Edgecumbe is being completely evacuated after the Rangitaiki River breached its banks
  • Whakatāne District Council says the entire township of about 2000 was being cleared on Thursday morning, after the river's stopbanks burst near College Rd
  • Welfare centres has been set up at the Firmin Lodge in Kawerau and at the Whakatāne War Memorial Hall, and buses are running from the town's fire station
  • Boats are being used to rescue some residents in areas that couldn't be reached by trucks and "large number" of homes had already been flooded, the fire service says
  • MetService has lifted all heavy rain warnings for the North Island. The remnants of Tropical Cyclone Debbie are expected to hit Canterbury's Banks Peninsula with 50mm to 80mm of rain on Thursday. Along with Kaikōura, the peninsula could also be hit by winds of up to 130km/h
  • About 200 residents evacuated in Whanganui following floods have been allowed to return home and a state of emergency is set to be lifted at 11am
  • Fears the Whanganui River would overflow in a repeat of floods in 2015 prompted early evacuations in the area on Wednesday, but water levels have subsided overnight.

LIVE UPDATES:

This live updates article has now concluded.

9:12pm: A house in western Bay of Plenty has been damaged after a landslip crashed into it.

The 30m slip caused structural damage when it hit the Omokoroa house.

A fire service spokesperson told Newshub only the one house was hit and everyone has been accounted for.

8:52pm: An earlier update incorrectly stated the Selwyn District Council issued a boil water notice as a result of the wild weather across the region.

A boil water notice has been issued for those on the Acheron water supply, which is one of around 30 water supplies in the district.

No E.coli has been detected in the water supply but the boil water notice has been issued as a precaution, as the Council "cannot guarantee that the water is safe to drink" at this time.

Residents are advised to boil their water until the notice is lifted, which is likely to be in several days' time.

Weather: Dregs of Cyclone Debbie pass over New Zealand

8:46pm: A popular gym in Edgecumbe has temporarily suspended everyone's memberships due to the disaster,

The Temple shared several photos of its flooded-out gym, with dark, murky water swamping the floor and in some spots lapping over the work-out equipment.

Workers there say they felt the town wasn't properly warned about the evacuation, despite media coverage.

"For instance, at about 8:45am Paul Mountfort saw the water burst through the stop bank on College Rd. He urged everyone in the gym and then the Edgecumbe Riverslea Mall to evacuate immediately."

7:56pm: Some people who evacuated from Edgecumbe left with just a single bag of possessions.

7:30pm: Rescuers turned to speedboats to rescue people in Edgecumbe today. See footage here

5:55pm: More evacuations have been ordered in Whakatane.

5:50pm: Whakatane District Council says Edgecumbe will be surrounded by a security cordon, and police will be patrolling through the night to protect residents' houses from looters.

5:30pm: Boil water notice issued for parts of Canterbury.

The Selwyn District Council has issued a boil water notice for residents as a result of wild weather across the region.

Authorities say they can't be confident the water is safe to drink but say no E.coli has been found.

The council is instructing residents to boil water sufficiently to kill all bugs and if they can't boil water, add one teaspoon of household bleach per 10 litres of water and leave for 30 minutes before consuming.

The boil water notice is expected to be in place for several days.

5:00pm: Key routes through the greater Wellington area have been cut by flooding and slips.

Middleton Road near the Burdendale Grove intersection has been closed by a slip, and Grays Road in Plimmerton has been closed by flooding.

4:30pm: The Whakatane District Council has released their latest information on the flooding.

3:50pm: Residents of the flooded town of Edgecumbe are sharing their stories.

"It was very traumatic, actually. I was on the phone only to hear a loud noise that I thought was rubbish trucks coming a day early and I went outside and all of a sudden saw a river sweeping down our street," says local resident Rachel Davis.

"Fire people rung and said they'd be along shortly - to wait. We waited for half an hour and the water was already up to my chest."

2:50pm: Civil Defence Manawatu Wanganui have released new photos of the floods.

1:20pm: School closures update:

Flooding has closed 47 schools and 21 early learning services across the North Island, affecting 5875 school students and 709 pre-schoolers, the Ministry of Education says.

"Schools and ECEs that are currently open across greater Whakatāne do not need to close," Ministry of Education spokesperson Katrina Casey says.

"Our regional teams are also keeping a close eye on the developing weather situation in the Nelson-Marlborough, West Coast and Canterbury regions.

"The majority of these schools and early childhood centres (ECEs) have been closed because of flooding on nearby roads.

"As the severe wet weather and subsequent flooding is a developing situation, further closures are possible."

For more details on closed education centres, see the Ministry of Education website.

1:00pm: The latest from Whakatāne District Council:

As well as Edgecumbe, the rural area around Titoki Rd to the west of Whakatāne has also been evacuated due to the overtopping of a floodbank on the Whakatāne River, the council says.

There are currently no plans to shut the Whakatāne Bridge or evacuate Whakatāne town. 

High tide is expected on the Whakatāne coast just before 3pm.

"The Whakatāne and Rangitāiki Rivers are at historically high flood levels and river flows are unlikely to subside sufficiently to allow access to cut-off areas in Tāneatua, Rūātoki and Waimana, and the evacuated areas, for some time. Evacuees may need to be out of their homes for up to 72 hours."

The Tāneatua reservoir is currently at 40 percent capacity, and the power transformer appears to be under water, the council says.

Horizon Energy has a contingency plan of delivering a diesel generator by tractor/trailer unit to the site. Tāneatua residents are therefore asked to conserve water until further notice.

Edgecumbe flooded houses
Flooded streets in Edgecumbe (Newshub.)

12:00pm: Boats and tractors are helping evacuate the hardest-hit residents in the eastern Bay of Plenty town of Edgecumbe.

Whakatāne District Mayor Tony Bonne says says some areas are under more than 2m of water.

"We're making progress, it's been coordinated well. We've got about six jet boats going to people's homes and bringing them out, we've also got local agricultural contractors with their big heavy tractors and trailers. We're filling up buses now and they'll be going to welfare centres.

"As soon as we've got this floodwater under control I'm only hoping that residents will be able to return in a couple of days' time."

"I understand the regional council is looking at ways to reduce the flooding in the Edgecumbe town. That could be by controlled flooding of the flood plain."

11:58am: Near Foxton the Manawatu River has risen to nearly hit the bridge at SH1.

Flooded Manawatu River near Foxton
The flooded Manawatu River near Foxton (Cleo Fraser / Newshub.)

11:50am: Fonterra has temporarily shut down its Edgecumbe factory.

"Local staff are currently preparing low-lying parts of the site for potential flooding. Staff who are not involved in these preparations are being sent home," spokeswoman Lisa Payne says.

About half of the 380-strong staff team have already left the site.

"At this stage, the stopbank on the river where our site is located has held, but there is a possibility that we may evacuate the site later in the day if the river level continues to rise."

11:40am: Malcolm Growden has shared aerial footage on Facebook showing the devastating flooding in Edgecumbe.

Fire service flooding in Edgecumbe
Police and firefighters at flooding in Edgecumbe (Fire Service)

11:30am: In Canterbury, the wild weather is bringing relief for farmers.

"For us, this is absolutely wonderful," North Canterbury farmer Lynda Murchison says.

"We have had some good spells of rains, a few millimetres here and there on a regular basis but it is certainly not enough to recharge the aquifers.

"This sort of volume of rain is the sort of stuff that we need."

Ms Murchison says this rain may end the drought for farms in the area who have been without heavy rain for years.

"If we keep getting patterns like this then we should be moving into a recovery.

"It's been tough in north Canterbury, we've had drought we've had earthquakes, for us to have rain like this is a real good booster."

11:10am: Whakatāne is not being evacuated, but there is flooding around the town. 

11:00am: The fire service and Civil Defence are using boats to evacuate residents in the hardest hit areas of Edgecumbe.

There's widespread flooding in several streets after the Rangataiki River burst one of its stopbanks.

Several locally-sourced boats are being used and surf lifesaving boats are en route from Maunganui.

The fire service says it has had 32 callouts and 58 calls since 6am in the Edgecumbe and Tāneatua area. 

10:55am: Picton residents are being warned to avoid swimming or eating shellfish from the harbour and Waitohi Stream.

The heavy rain has put the town's sewerage system under pressure and it's overflowing into both areas.

10:45am: Firmin Lodge in Kawerau is the area's welfare centre, Whakatane District Council says.

Whakatāne River bridge is not closing, and Whakatāne is not being evacuated. Residents should conserve water and avoid flushing toilets, particularly in Tāneatua and South Whakatāne.

The public are being asked not to contact the Whakatāne Hospital if they require prescription medications. Some evacuees have left medicine at home and are seeking prescriptions at the A&E, which is causing congestion, Whakatāne District Council says.

Instead they should call Healthline 0800 611 116.

10:35am: Whanganui's state of emergency is being lifted at 11am. 

"We have volunteers available to help residents shift back home and remove any sandbags," Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall says.

10:30am: Police are knocking on doors in Edgecumbe to make sure residents are evacuated. Images show floodwaters creeping into the town's streets. Rata Ave has serious flooding.

10:15am: Fonterra says it's preparing its Edgecumbe site for flooding, and will make an evacuation decision later on Thursday morning. The plant has 380 staff and 26 trucks onsite.

10:10am: Road closures around Whakatane: 

SH2 remains closed in the Waioeka Gorge where the road has washed out, SH2 between Awakeri and Opotiki is closed due to flooding, SH30 from Rotorua to Rotoma Hills is closed due to flooding, SH34 from Edgecumbe to Te Teko is closed by flooding.

10:00am: MetService weather update:

Widespread heavy rain for parts of the North Island has now eased, but continues about the Banks Peninsula and Kaikoura Coast with southwest gales, MetService says.

Rain has eased over Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and the Tararua Range and the warnings for these regions are now lifted.

Heavy rain is falling over Banks Peninsula and is expected to continue during Thursday before easing in the evening.

A further 80mm of rain may accumulate on top of what has already fallen during this time. People in this area are advised to watch out for rapidly rising rivers and streams, surface flooding and slips, MetService says.

Southwesterly gales over Banks Peninsula and the Kaikoura Coast are expected during today, with gusts of 130 km/h in exposed places, before easing tonight.

Heavy rain warnings have been lifted for: Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty and Rotorua, Taranaki, Tararua Range, Kaikōura coast.

9:20am: Whakatane's Mayor Tony Bonne says it's a serious situation. 

"We're asking everyone in the Edgecumbe town if you haven't evacuated to self-evacuate. We have police arriving at the town, we've got breaches on Collins Rd on the stopbank and water is going through.

"If you can get to the fire station there are buses to bus you out.

"There are welfare centres set up at Kawerau Events Centre and Whakatane War Memorial Hall."

9:10am: Welfare centres have been set up at the Whakatane Salvation Army and War Memorial Hall in Whakatane.

9:00am: "The stockbank has breached, if you're still in Edgecumbe please leave immediately and head to Kawerau," Whakatane District Council says.

8:30am: The eastern Bay of Plenty is flooding after heavy rain overnight. Local rivers have burst their banks, and the entire town of Edgecumbe is preparing to evacuate.

Six hundred residents are in Edgecumbe.

"Go to friends or family living outside the affected area," Whakatane District Council says.

"We will also be having an evacuation centre opened at the Salvation Army hall on the corner of Goulstone Rd and King St in Whakatāne."

8:15am: The South Island is forecast to be hit by the storm on Thursday. Heavy falls of rain are expected across Canterbury, with southwesterly winds rising to 130km/h gusts near the Kaikoura coast and Banks Peninsula.

7:45am: State Highways are closed around Kawerau, Whakatane and Opotiki. The Waioweka gorge road is closed.

7:30am: Evacuated residents and business owners can head back into their properties later on Thursday morning, Whanganui District Council says. 

"The good news is the Whanganui River levels dropped significantly overnight and there is no longer a risk of flooding in low lying areas of our city," Civil Defence controller Kym Fell says.

"We are asking people to continue being patient. We need to do a series of infrastructure checks to bridges and remove the cordons set up yesterday afternoon.

"We also need to restore power and gas to affected properties in Anzac Parade, Putiki and Taupo Quay."

He says residents and business owners have been incredibly co-operative and community-minded.

  • The state of emergency remains in place. 
  • A total of 212 people reported into Civil Defence after evacuating low-lying areas of Anzac Parade and Putiki on Wednesday afternoon. 
  • Taupo Quay, from Wilson St to Victoria Ave, and from Victoria Ave to Guyton St is closed. Dublin Street Bridge is open. Whanganui City Bridge is open, except to heavy traffic which is advised to use the Cobham Bridge. SH4 is closed along Anzac Pde between Hakeke St and Purua St and closed from the Whanganui River Rd/SH4 intersection to Raetihi. SH3 is open.
  • Schools and pre-schools in Whanganui are open today, except for those in the evacuation zones. All Whanganui District Council sports grounds are closed.

7:20am: Wellington Airport says five flights have been cancelled and six flights delayed - both international and domestic. Heavy rain is interrupting the airways systems.

Passengers with cancelled flights either found accommodation or returned home. Around 50 travellers needed to stay overnight in the terminal and airport staff looked after them, airport spokesperson Greg Thomas says.

Flights are operating on Thursday morning, and travellers should check their flight status on the aiport website.

7:05am: Images show the damage done to one house in Newtown, after a landslip took out power lines and a gas main. 

Owhiro Bay resident and Wellington City Council spokesperson Richard MacLean told Newshub it got very dramatic there around midnight. 

"We evacuated a whole bunch of houses because what was normally a little creek turned into a raging torrent. It didn't go into any houses as far as we know."

The slip at Millward St, Newtown, which burst gas and water mains (Emma Jolliff/Newshub.)
The slip at Millward St, Newtown, which burst gas and water mains (Emma Jolliff/Newshub.)

7:00am: Main roads around Kaikōura are closed due to heavy rain and flooding, NZTA says. 

Kaikoura road closed map
All main roads around Kaikoura are currently closed, NZTA says (nzta.govt.nz)

6:00am: In Hamilton sandbags have been stacked in readiness at sites in Ann Ave and Awatere Ave, as the river is expected to rise overnight Thursday.

River levels are 2m higher than Wednesday morning and still rising, the council says.

"Towns and cities across the entire North Island have felt the effects of Cyclone Debbie and Hamilton has come through it well so far, but we are still dealing with hundreds of incidents as a result of the heavy rain," incident management controller Blair Bowcott says.

Hamilton City Council has also temporarily shut down one of the city's main water pipes to protect the city's water supply from a situation like Auckland's in March.

5:30am: Twelve cars are stuck on Reid Rd in Taneatua after hitting floodwaters.

NZN / Newshub.