Downpour creates problems aplenty for Tasman locals

Drought-stricken Tasman's weather took a very different turn to usual last night, with the area now awash with water.

The raging torrents of the Waimea River caught out one motorist, along with his three passengers -- including a nine-month-old baby.

"I think they were rubber-necking looking at the river but didn't realise how quick it would rise and when they got halfway down between the Appleby Bridge and Lower Queen Street they found they were stranded," orchardist Stephen Russ said.

The stranded driver called his friend for help.

"Me and my mate tried to get them out, we tried every possible way to get them out but we couldn't get in there, it was just way too deep and fast," Mark Hand said.

It's some of the worst flooding the Lower Waimea river has seen in years.

"Last time we saw flooding at that level was 30 years ago, two tranches -- one at Golden Bay, one at Waimea -- from the same weather bomb," said resident Chris Choat.

Parts of the Great Taste Trail, used by hundreds of cyclists at this time of year, have been closed after being inundated with rain around Richmond -- or washed away.

"They advised me it was still 800mm lower than the stopbank and they didn't think it was going to be a problem -- I think this flood proves them wrong," farmer Hugh Challies said.

However the New Zealand Cycle Trail says there was thorough consultation.

"We build really carefully, we talk to the locals and make sure we talk to the landowners and the council, and it's the locals who have the best idea of where the trail should be constructed," New Zealand Cycle Trail manager Evan Freshwater said.

Water restrictions were lifted immediately, and the council is warning people to stay out of rivers and beaches for the next few days.