Southland flooding: Fiordland businesses feel the strain after severe weather

Fiordland businesses are feeling the strain in what should be their peak tourist season following severe flooding last week. 

The extreme weather left hundreds of people stranded in Milford Sound and on walking tracks in the area.

Nearly 6000 people were evacuated from their homes across Southland, with Gore and Mataura hit the hardest.

But despite the flooding, visitors are being reminded that tourists are still welcome in the region - and that only the Milford area remains cut off due to damage to State Highway 94.

"Fiordland is still very much open for business, people can still head into that area and do short walks, etc - but getting into Milford itself is very difficult," Southland Mayor Gary Tong told Newshub.  

Tong says the flooding came when the region's tourism industry was already facing challenges.

"It's a bit hard to tell whether it's all to do with what's happened with the flood event or the coronavirus. Because that happened before the flood event and a number of trips were cancelled prior to the flood event."

A public meeting will be held on Monday evening to discuss what support tourism operators need. Tong says the area needs help more than ever.

"Some of the operators are certainly concerned about the future however everyone's doing their best to get what they can open as soon as possible in that patch."

Shipping and local boating operators will be allowed to resume operations with care in Milford Sound from Monday. 

"There's debris on the southern side of the Fiord, mainly between Dale Point and Anita Bay, with the northern side of the Fiord relatively clear," Emergency Management Southland said.

"Regional harbourmaster Lyndon Cleaver has advised all vessel operators to be cautious when transiting through these areas."

Until the risks had reduced, cruiseships, pilot boats and local tourist operators would only be allowed to operate within Milford Sound during daylight hours, Emergency Management Southland said.

On Sunday, the Government gave $100,000 to the Mayoral Relief Fund to help those hit by the floods in Southland. That followed a $100,000 grant given to the Rural Support Trust.

The Government has promised more support towards the clean-up in the weeks to come.