Weather: Police urge motorists to drive safely as crucial road reopens

Power, internet and rail have all been affected and two of the South Island's main routes are still cut off, after mass flooding at the weekend.

What you need to know:

  • Major roads remain closed in the South Island due to torrential flooding and slips, including parts of State Highway 1, SH79 in the Timaru District, and SH6 on the West Coast.
  • Inland Route 72 over the Upper Rangitata Bridge opened at midday. This is the only route between Timaru and Christchurch, and motorists are warned to expect delays
  • Fox Glacier residents are being asked to conserve water and power
  •  A state of emergency remains in place in the Timaru District
  • The Timaru District Council is hoping SH1 will be open within 24 hours
  • An emergency accommodation centre is open at Timaru's Southern Trust Events Centre.

These live updates have now finished. More on Newshub live at 4:30pm and 6pm.

2:52pm - WeatherWatch says some parts of New Zealand are drenched while others are much drier and in need of rain.

"A several day deluge has now cleared the West Coast with a much drier week on the way for them - but another burst of heavy rain is expected late week," WeatherWatch said in a statement.

"Meanwhile dry parts of the upper and eastern North Island had hit and miss relief over the weekend.

"Sunday saw a number of significant downpours drenching parts of Northland and Waikato while others parts of these regions - and a large portion of Auckland - missed out on widespread downpours."

2:45pm - University of Auckland geomorphologist Murray Ford has shared incredible before and after imagery of the Rangitata River bursting its banks.

2:15pm - Fox Franz Heli Services is taking stranded tourists out of Franz Josef and into Haast, where they can catch a bus to Queenstown. 

Safety manager and pilot Jason Lush says the closure of SH6 is having a large impact on the area. 

"Tourism is particularly important to us," he told Newshub.

2:12pm - New Zealand is in for a jump in temperatures as cool weather switches to warmer later in the week.

MetService says the week starts off cold, dry and clear with cooler air coming up from the Southern Ocean.

But the country gets warmer and wetter as the week progresses, with the eastern North Island reaching the higher 20s.

2:10pm - Rain has now eased in the Otago headwaters. Lakes Wakatipu and Wānaka have started to recede and that's expected to continue.

The lake levels however will likely remain high for several weeks. 

2:04pm - Newshub has learned SH1 is not badly damaged, but can't be repaired until the water recedes.

On the West Coast, SH6 is still dogged with closures, with the Fox Hills expected to be clear by Friday.

Some visitors have already self evacuated by private air operators.

Residents of Fox Glacier are being asked to keep conserving water and power.

The Rangitata River on Monday.
The Rangitata River on Monday. Photo credit: Newshub/Annabelle Tukia

2:00pm - A South Canterbury farming leader says reality is starting to sink in for farmers affected by severe flooding from the Rangitata River.

Local Federated Farmers president Jason Grant said around 12 large farms, mainly dairy-operations, had been the worst affected.

"It's left a lot of debris and carnage behind it," he told Rural Today's Dominic George.

1:48pm - Tourism operators in the small South Canterbury town of Geraldine urge locals to walk or cycle about town if possible, due to the large volumes of traffic passing through.

1:45pm - Incredible video has been captured of the backlogged traffic on Talbot St, in the small South Canterbury town of Geraldine, after Inland Route 72 reopened.

1:10pm - The Timaru District Council says Inland Route 72 will be open all night should weather and road conditions allow.

1:07pm - Video from the Timaru District Council shows the backlog of traffic starting to make its way down Inland Route 72, which opened at midday.

1:03pm - The sun is shining across the region on Monday but Canterbury Weather Updates is warning of more rain later in the week.

12:58pm - Franz Josef Aspen Court Motel has about 40 guests staying at its accommodation who are stuck and trying to figure out their next move. 

Manager Peter Kitson says most are coping with the situation, but it's on a day-to-day basis.

"Obviously there's quite a bit of disappointment that they can't move on," he told Newshub.

"Generally they're writing off the balance of their trip."

12:38pm - Authorities are urging South Island motorists to drive safely and take their time, as some roads re-open following the weekend's wild weather events.

SH6 from Haast to Wanaka opened at 10am but will close at 4pm. 

Snr Const Paul Gurney says motorists need to take care.

"People have got to read the signs and keep up to date [with the roads] online," he told Newshub.

12:27pm - More than 30 West Coast farmers are being forced to dump milk because tankers can't get to them.

Local Federated Farmers President Peter Langford told Newshub the impact is horrendous.

11:42am - The NZTA's Pete Connors told Newshub it's been a long time since the West Coast has received the damage it sustained at the weekend.

Highway stretching 400 kilometres remains closed on the West Coast, stranding tourists and locals.

11:01am - Newshub's Annabelle Tukia has captured fresh images of the Rangitata River.

Weather: Police urge motorists to drive safely as crucial road reopens

10:58am - West Coast communities cut off by flood damage should be able to make either a north or south trip by the end of the week.

At the moment, a huge swathe of SH6 is closed from Hokitika down to Makarora.

The NZTA's Pete Connors says the big damage is on the Mt Hercules Hills, between Harihari and Whataroa.

"If we get fine weather we can start making progress," he told Newshub.

10:56am - There's better news for Monday with forecasts for clear air and dry weather.

 10:50am - Weather on the West Coast has become fine on Monday, according to MetService, except for some afternoon or evening showers about the ranges.

10:43am - There will be some relief for those impacted by the weekend's wild weather. NIWA says dry weather is on the way for the middle of the week.

10:37am - Chorus says it hopes to have those affected by internet outages on the east coast restored later on Monday.

On the West Coast, a land slip has caused a number of power poles with fibre attached to them to be displaced.

"The electricity provider in the area is in the process of carrying out work to restore its network and the Chrous' network can be restored."

10:28am - A map from Chorus shows the areas that remain affected by internet outages.

Chorus says it's continuing to repair the faults.

"Technicians are currently are Arundel replacing a section of damaged fibre," the company said in a statement.

"In the Ashburton and Geraldine regions, technicians continue to work to restore services.

"About 3000 homes and businesses may still be without broadband or phone."

Weather: Police urge motorists to drive safely as crucial road reopens
Photo credit: Chorus

10:20am - Inland Route 72 is expected to be busy during the next few days, Timaru emergency operations controller Tracy Tierney says.

"We recommend that if you can delay non-urgent travel, you should do so," she said in a statement.

"This will be an active work site, so for worker and general safety please be patient, follow all signs and instructions and keep your speed down."

10:16am - The Timaru District Council says there will be localised detours in place from the township of Orari, just north of Rangitata.

"Please make sure that you drive carefully and follow instructions. Police will be present along the route."

10:14am - Motorists are being urged to carry water and food if commuting between Timaru and Christchurch via Inland Route 72 on Monday.

"There are very limited services on this route," the Timaru District Council says.

10:08am - Inland Route 72 over the Upper Rangitata Bridge will be open to all traffic at 12pm, the Timaru District Council says.

"State Highway 1 at Rangitata remains closed until further notice," the council said on Facebook.

"Inland Route 72 will be the only access to and from Christchurch.

"Speed restrictions will be in place and, due to the backlog of traffic, we expect travel times betwen Timaru and Christchurch to be significantly longer than normal."

10:02am - The NZTA's Pete Connors says it's a waiting game until water levels recede.

On the West Coast, people should be able to travel south between Fox and Franz by the end of the week, but the route between Harihari to Whatroa could be off limits till Christmas. 

9:53am - Fresh photos and video from The National journalist Ashleigh Stewart shows the extent of the flooding that remains at Rangitata. The wait continues for the river to recede enough to repair SH1.

9:40am - New Zealand Red Cross is continuing to support Civil Defence in the Timaru area, helping to evacuate people to safe shelter if needed.

9:25am - The Timaru District Council says there will be an update on road conditions at 10am. SH1 remains under water at Rangitata on Monday morning, with the river receding slowly.

9:12am - NZTA spokesperson Peter Connors says travellers on the West Coast can expect to stay put for the time being, as roads remain closed due to high river levels and slips.

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