Snow! Blessing for skiers, curse for drivers

The Desert Road through the centre of the North Island has been closed due to snow.

"We hit the Desert Road and it was very lightly snowing so we took a couple of pictures and that was all very good," says motorist Shelley Easton.

"We only got a couple of kilometres further down and it got really heavy, it was completely white the whole way. We ended up stopping fully and there would have been 10 cars that had stopped. Then we decided to go really slowly.

"We've just been stopped by police and ambulance now in Waiouru. I believe all the roads are closed now, so not quite sure that we're going to get back to Palmy."

desert road closed by snow
The Desert Road has been closed by snow (Supplied)

NZTA advised of the closure in a tweet shortly before 5pm on Saturday. The road from Rangipo to Waiouru is part of State Highway 1.

Images of snow falling on Saturday at the Turoa and Whakapapa ski areas were also posted on Facebook, with the operator saying snow had also fallen briefly in the nearby township of Ohakune.

A strong, cold southwesterly flow covered New Zealand on Saturday, with snow falling to low levels in the far south, MetService said.

Dunedin, Central Otago and Queenstown were among areas to receive snow overnight on Friday, and MetService issued a heavy snow warning for continued falls on Saturday.

It said during this time snow could continue to fall to low levels in the Southern Lakes, Dunedin, Southland and Clutha.

In the South Island, SH87 from Sutton to Outram is closed due to snow.

Snow on Wanaka sign
Snow on a signpost in Arrowtown (Newshub.)

The snowfall is looking good for ski fields though. For the last three years there hasn't been snow at this time of year in Arrowtown, causing late openings.

MetService forecaster Tom Adams says winds are also likely to cause problems across the lower South Island.


"Ahead of this front there's some very strong westerlies, followed by strong southwesterlies. That's going to add to driving conditions especially if you're driving through wind and snow, that's going to really affect visibility," he says.

Snow in Arrowtown
Snow in Arrowtown (Newshub.)
Turoa snow
There's already been a good dumping of snow at Turoa on Mt Ruapehu (Supplied)

MetService has issued a severe weather watch for Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Tararua, Wairarapa, Marlborough, Christchurch, Clutha, Dunedin, North Otago, Fiordland and Stewart Island, as the heavy snow and southwest gales hit.