Cyclone Gita arrives in New Zealand

These live updates have now finished. Please click here for Wednesday's live updates.

Cyclone Gita has hit New Zealand, turning rush hour to chaos and forcing evacuations.

The cyclone swept across the Pacific last week, bringing destruction and devastation to Tonga and Samoa. It's now expected to slam into New Zealand's southern North Island and the northern half of the South Island.

Motorists are urged to delay travel, with roads expected to close in major urban centres. The NZTA says driving conditions are likely to be treacherous in many affected areas, with heavy rain and very strong winds.

The Marlborough District Council has warned campers and boaties to leave the area immediately.

What you need to know:

  • Gale-force gusts, slips, flooding and coastal inundation is predicted
  • Civil Defence staff have been pre-deployed to the areas that will be worst affected
  • Taranaki, Nelson Tasman, Westland, Selwyn, Christchurch, Buller and Grey districts have each delcared a State of Emergency
  • New Zealanders are being urged to prepare emergency evacuation plans and have a grab-bag ready
  • People have been advised not to travel during the storm and several schools have been closed
  • Kaikoura has been cut off due to the closure of both SH1 and SH70
  • State Highway 6 has been closed from Westport to Greymouth and from Hokitika to Franz Josef Glacier
  • State Highway 60 has been closed from Riwaka to Tākaka
  • Riwaka residents have been evacuated as the river is near to bursting its banks

These live updates have now ended.

11:23pm - Kaikoura Emergency Operations Centre to stand down

Kaikoura's Emergency Operations Centre is winding down for the night as rain eases.

Conditions will be monitored overnight but the centre will not be manned.

Water levels across the district are dropping but localised flooding remains in the Kaikoura Flats suburban area.

High tide passed at 9:23pm.

11pm - Less rainfall than forecast in Christchurch and Banks Peninsula 

Christchurch City Council says the rainfall received in the city and Banks Peninsula was significantly less than forecast.

The high tide still remains an area of concern. 

10:57pm - Gita predicted to develop a new southeast centre

Modelling by forecaster MetService predicts Gita will develop a new centre southeast of the Cook Strait as it begins to move across the northern South Island.

10:43pm - 42 tourists spending the night on buses in Whataroa

Forty-two tourists are trapped in a small town on the West Coast and are spending the night sleeping in two buses.

Andrew Thompson, from Westland Civil Defence, says the group is safe and well, and is being looked after by locals.

The road out of town has been closed due to high winds, one truck has already overturned on the road on Wednesday.

Mr Thompson told Newshub another 25 tourists are currently in an emergency centre at the Whataroa community hall and an indeterminant number are at the St John's hall in Whataroa.

Thirty tourists will be spending the evening at a welfare centre in Haast.

9:50pm - Kaikoura District Council opens emergency welfare centre

An emergency welfare centre has been opened in Kaikoura as the district begins to experience surface flooding.

The Kaikoura District Council says drains have been overwhelmed by rain and the Kaikoura Flats suburban area has localised flooding.

The council advises residents who need to evacuate to check if they can stay with friends or family, and if not, to go to Takahanga Marae.

Self-contained campers are advised to avoid low-lying areas.

Residents should be prepared for surface flooding, local road closures and possible power cuts as the weather develops.

The local Emergency Operations Centre will remain open overnight.

9:25pm - 250 people at evacuation centres in Takaka and Motueka

Civil Defence spokesperson Chris Choat says there are currently 150 people at the Takaka Rec Centre and 100 people at the Motueka Rec Centre.

A third centre is being set up in Collingwood and the Salvation Army centre is also able to take people if they would like to evacuate.

The next big concern is high tide at 2am.

9:17pm - Motueka River severely affected by storm

Newshub reporter Ben Irwin says it's no surprise the Riwaka River flooded so heavily, considering the storms impact in Motueka.

Photos of the Motueka River show fast-flowing and dangerously high water.

8:32pm - MetService expecting weather conditions to change rapidly

Forecaster MetService says Gita is currently west of Farewell Spit and conditions are expected to change as the storm passes over New Zealand during the night.

8:09pm - Taranaki region declares State of Emergency

Taranaki has become the seventh to declare a State of Emergency and the first in the North Island.

Nearly 23,000 properties were without power at 6:20pm, some are expected to remain without power overnight.

7:56pm - Nelson Tasman district declares State of Emergency

Six separate districts have now declared a State of Emergency. 

Evacuations near Riwaka.
Evacuations near Riwaka. Photo credit: Newshub.

7:49pm - Westland District Council declares a State of Emergency

Five districts have now declared a State of Emergency.

Westland District Council says it was necessary due to severe wind gusts and danger to motorists. 

7:34pm - State Highway 3 north of Taranaki from Urenui to Waitara has been closed

NZTA says detours are in place after trees fell across the intersection of Tūrangi Road Upper.

7:24pm - Selwyn District Council declares State of Emergency

Selwyn District Council has become the fourth to declare a State of Emergency.

The council says this is due to the potential of the Selwyn River flooding overnight.

7:04pm - About 4000 without power in Nelson Tasman region

Approximately 4000 people are without power in the Nelson Tasman region.

The areas between Kina and Takaka, including Kaiteriteri, are affected.

6:59pm - Kaikoura cut off by road closures

Hurunui District Council has announced the closure of the inland route, State Highway 70, meaning Kaikoura is now cut off after SH1 was closed earlier in the day.

6:38pm - Canterbury District Health Board warns public to steer clear of flood waters

In the event of flooding, CDHB is warning residents to treat all flood water as contaminated and avoid contact.

Residents are also being told to keep water quality in mind and check with their local district or city council, in case water needs to be treated.

6:14pm - Grey District declares State of Emergency 

It is the third district to declare a State of Emergency, following Christchurch and Buller earlier on Tuesday.

Cyclone Gita arrives in New Zealand
Photo credit: Newshub.

5:47pm - Riwaka residents are being evacuated as the river is close to bursting its banks

Search and Rescue teams have been deployed in rafts on either side of the river to evacuate residents from their homes.

5:24pm - High winds cause chaos in Taranaki

High winds are causing chaos throughout Taranaki with flying roofing iron posing a serious risk.

Emergency services are responding to reports of fallen trees, downed power lines, roofs being lifted off homes and slips covering several roads.

More than 5500 homes and businesses are without power across the region.

5:10pm - State Highway 6 from Hokitika to Franz Josef Glacier is closed due to severe wind

State Highway 6 at the Gates to Haast is reduced to one lane with traffic controls in place. 

Flooding at Fairfield Orchard.
Flooding at Fairfield Orchard. Photo credit: Newshub.

4:44pm - Nelson Tasman Civil Defence says State of Emergency is an option

Declaring a State of Emergency is an option but is not necessary right now. 

Nelson Tasman Civil Defence controller Roger Ball says they are carefully monitoring the Riwaka and Golden Bay areas for flooding.

"We've got some very heavy flooding in Motueka."

Urban Search and Rescue staff have been deployed to the area.

"The main message for people, if you have any concern, tonight is the night to go stay with friends and family," Mr Ball says.

"We don't want people to have to move at 2am at high tide."

State Highway 60 from Riwaka to Takaka is closed due to fallen trees on the road.

4:29pm - Marlborough "through the worst" of the storm

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett says the district "should be through the worst of it". 

An Emergency Operations Centre will stay on stand-by, in case anything "flares up" overnight. 

4:09pm - Kaikoura has activated its Emergency Operations Centre 

Kaikoura's Emergency Operations Centre in the District Council building has been activated.

The centre will be staffed into the evening until risk from the weather diminishes.

The council is advising all freedom campers (including vehicles) in coastal areas to move inland to higher ground.

 

3:53pm - Buller District has declared a State of Emergency because of the risk of flooding in Granity

About six houses are at risk of flooding in Granity, which has caused the State of Emergency to be put in place, Buller Mayor Garry Howard says. 

3:22pm - Power is out near Westport

Some residents are without power near Westport.

Buller Electricity Limited says power is currently out from their depot at Robertson St to Waimangaroa Bridge and staff are working to restore it. 

Tanya Newman at The Pines Tavern says they lost power about an hour ago.

She says there could be worse places to be stuck in a storm without power.

"Well there could be worse places we've got food, alcohol we've got comfort and it's quite good.

"We've got the generator going so we can get the important things going, like the water pumps, the beer pumps and the lights."

 

2:51pm - A State of Emergency has been declared in Christchurch

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel has declared a State of Emergency for Christchurch City, which includes Banks Peninsula, due to the impact of Tropical Cyclone Gita.

Latest forecasts show the region is set for heavy rain and high winds, with potentially serious impact. Banks Peninsula is expected to bear the brunt of the storm.

The declaration highlights the severity of the potential impact of the weather and gives people early warning to prepare.

"The full impact of the storm will be felt overnight and tomorrow morning," Ms Dalzell says. "We are expecting homes to be flooded.

"If you are in a flood-prone area, particularly if your home was flooded or close to flooding in the July storm last year, you should consider evacuation before the worst of the storm hits tonight.

"Part of Clarendon Terrace has been closed already, and we expect further streets to close over the course of the afternoon and evening. These will not reopen until the risk of flooding has gone."

People in low-lying areas should move valuable possessions up high and move cars to higher ground.

2:27pm - State Highway 6 from Westport to Greymouth closed

The Coast Road (State Highway 6) from Westport to Greymouth has been closed due to flooding and strong winds.

2:19pm - Christchurch residents in low lying areas be prepared to self evacuate 

The Christchurch City Council has warned people who live in low-lying areas whose homes have flooded in the past should be prepared to self-evacuate this afternoon.

2:14pm - Campers urged to move to high ground and campgrounds closed in Selwyn District 

Campers in affected coastal areas of the upper South Island are being urged to move to higher ground.

The Department of Conservation has cancelled bookings for the Abel Tasman National Park and says they've got people out who want to leave.

Canterbury's Selwyn District are closing the Chamberlains, Coes and Whitecliffs campgrounds tonight, due to expected rain and wind.

The front carpark at the Lincoln Event Centre is available for campers to park up if needed.

2:10pm - MetService has the latest on Cyclone Gita's movements toward New Zealand

1:40pm - Reports of local flooding in Marlborough region

A Emergency Operations Centre in Blenheim is monitoring Cyclone Gita impacts.

All Marlborough's Civil Defence agencies met this morning and the centre will be staffed until midnight tonight.

There is local road flooding in some parts of the region. People should restrict their travel today if possible. Road conditions are not good, with State Highway 1 closed at Clarence, the Marlborough District Council says.

The closely monitoring the Pelorus River at Canvastown and there may be surface flooding on SH63 at Wairau Valley township.

Welfare staff have been liaising with vulnerable communities. The Red Cross has welfare staff available and on call in Marlborough and Civil Defence centres if required. 

12:55pm - Cyclone Gita to split into two

As Cyclone Gita moves over the South Island tonight it will split into two, MetService says.

A spokesperson says it's typical for the Southern Alps to divide low pressure systems.

The main storm will rage over the Banks Peninsula, while a smaller storm will hover over the South Island's west coast.

12:40pm - Wellington Cable Car to keep running despite winds

"CYCLONE GITA UPDATE for Wellington Cable Car: last car today is at 7pm, keep warm and be safe," it says on Twitter.

12:20pm - Road snow warning issued for the Crown Range

A road snow warning has been issued for the Crown Range. Between 5-10 cm of snow could accumulate near the summit, with lesser amounts down to 900 metres, MetService says.

12:10pm - Worst winds yet to strike Wellington

There has been heavy rain in the Wellington region - and MetService warns the wind has still to reach its full strength.

"Significant rainfall in the last 12 hours for the #Wellington region with 60 mm accumulating in some areas," it says.

"Good news is that the rain is expected to ease from midday. However the strongest winds are still to come, with severe N'ly gales expected from this evening."

11:55am - Timaru District Council activates emergency operations centre

The Timaru District Council has activated its emergency operations centre in preparation of Cyclone Gita.

Timaru District Council communications manager Stephen Doran says the centre has been activated at this early stage to ensure all local agencies are ready to respond if needed. The centre is currently operating at a low level.

11:30am - Air New Zealand cancels flights as former cyclone Gita approaches

Air New Zealand has cancelled all flights in and out of Wellington from 2:45pm through to midnight on Tuesday due to severe weather in the capital.

Flights are also cancelled in and out of the following airports for the rest of the day:

  • Hokitika

  • Nelson (from midday onwards)

  • New Plymouth (from 11.00am onwards)

  • Queenstown

 

The airline is closley monitoring conditions in Blenheim, the Kapiti Coast and Palmerston North.

 

11:25am - TranzAlpine rail services cancelled due to severe weather

KiwiRail's TranzAlpine service, from Greymouth to Christchurch has been cancelled for Tuesday and Wednesday, affecting over 1400 passengers.

They are being offered refunds or the option to reschedule their travel dates.

"We regret the inconvenience to our customers. We are always striving to deliver the best possible service, but safety is paramount," KiwiRail group general manager sales and commercial Alan Piper said.

11:15am - Westpower prepares for electricity emergency

Westpower has set up an emergency management team at the Greymouth base.

"We are currently placing crews in strategic areas of the network from Fox Glacier in the south to Reefton in the north," says CEO Rob Caldwell says.

"This will help with any immediate public safety response and reinstating any damage that we might have after the storm has passed through."

Mr Caldwell says that in the event of outages, treat lines as live at all times and keep away from lines which may be on the ground.

11:00am - Large waves could cause coastal inundation

"Large waves during high tides Taranaki, Kapiti & Nelson around 2am tonight, and Kaikoura and Canterbury 9pm this evening, then Weds 10am and 10pm could cause coastal inundation," MetService warns.

10:35am - Gita brings snow to South Island

Several regions of the South Island have snow forecast down to 1000m. There is a "considerable" risk of avalanches on Mt Cook.

10:05am - Wellington Zoo's otters love the rain

The rain might be pouring down - but that doesn't seem to bother these cheeky creatures.

"It's business as usual for the Otters, they've just had their breakfast and are happy playing and swimming in the rain!" Wellington Zoo says.

The Zoo will be open today as per usual from 9:30am to 5pm.

09:55am - Cyclone Gita closes State Highway 1

The NZ Transport Agency is warning motorists State Highway 1 has been closed north and south of Kaikoura due to heavy rain and the risk of slips and rockfalls.

Route 70, the inland road via Waiau remains open for road access to Kaikoura. While crews will aim to keep it open as long as possible, drivers are urged to delay all but essential trips in the area until the severe weather has passed.

All drivers travelling from Picton to Christchurch are advised to take the Lewis Pass route via Waipara and St Arnaud.

09:46am - Kaikoura is leading the way in rainfall

Kaikoura has already recorded 39 mm of rain today as Cyclone Gita's heavy rain sets in.

"Many areas over upper South Island & far lower North Island to receive 100+ mm with localised 200 mm+," NIWA says.

"Flooding & slips a real concern."

09:30am - Weather map shows heavy rain, lightning strikes

A new weather map from MetService shows the rain and lightning over NZ.

The 'O' symbol shows cloud-to-cloud lightning, while 'X' shows cloud-to-ground lightning.

Red colours are the newest lighting strikes, the purple ones are intermediate ones and blue symbols are the oldest strikes.

08:55am - MetService issues latest cyclone tracking

A brand new track map has been issued by MetService showing a path slightly to the north of previous track.

7:45am - School and ECE closures at the top of the South Island

Over 40 schools and 17 early learning centres at the top of the South Island will be closed today.

"Schools and ECE services in the Nelson City, Marlborough, Tasman, Buller, Grey Kaikoura and Westland districts have made plans overnight to close for the day or close early with severe weather warnings in place," a spokesperson says.

"We will provide support where and as requested for as long it is needed.  In the meantime we recommend parents and whanau check their school or early childhood service websites or Facebook pages, or contact them directly to get the most up to date information."

07:30am - Heavy rain warnings in place

Wellington, the Nelson-Tasman region and the West Coast are being warned to get ready.

Heavy rain warnings, including severe gales, are in place for Nelson and Buller from 9am on Tuesday, with 150-200mm of rain expected to fall west of Motueka.

Civil Defence is advising people to prepare for the possibility of power cuts, water outages and road closures.

7:00am - Wellington rail services still running

"Good Morning, unaffected so far by ex-cyclone Gita, all rail services are running to timetable but keep checking the website for updates," Metlink Wellington says.

6:30am - Latest tracking shows where Cyclone Gita will hit hardest

 

06:15am - Weather Watch issues national forecast

The Weather Watch forecast team warns Cyclone Gita is approaching fast on Tuesday with its centre moving over the upper South Island later this evening.

"This remains a serious storm, especially for the South Island and lower half of the North Island," it says.

06:00am - Heavy rain has already begun

"Former Cyclone Gita remains on track to impact central New Zealand today," MetService says on Twitter.

"Heavy rain has set in for much of this region already. The potentially damaging winds and very high waves are set to begin from early afternoon.

"Stay safe, and keep up-to-date with your latest forecast."

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