Roads closed, boil water notices in place as Otago, Southland flooding cleanup begins

Thunderstorms on Sunday afternoon might bring localised downpours and flash flooding.
Thunderstorms on Sunday afternoon might bring localised downpours and flash flooding. Photo credit: RNZ

Many roads remain closed due to flooding in the South Island, where campers are stranded, and while the clean-up has begun, more rain is on the way.

About 200 festival-goers are stranded at a camping ground in Otago with the main road out flooded.

It is the last day of the five-day-long Whare Flat Folk festival but people might have to stay at the Waiora Scout Camp for another night.

Festivals promotions manager Annabel Roy said there is plenty of food and everyone is safe and keeping themselves well entertained.

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said while the region had been spared major damage Waikaia locals were looking after several campers who had to be evacuated.

"They certainly can't get out of Waikaia yet, but I understand the river is receding rather quickly, so hopefully people will be able to return to their normal life by the end of the day as long as the rain keeps away."

A helicopter would fly over the area affected by floods on Sunday, to search for any stranded campers remaining in the Waikaia valley.

Another severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for the area this afternoon.

Otago's Waitaki district was hit especially hard by the flooding, with the Otematata River overflowing its banks, after a hasty evacuation of campers there. But there had been heavy local downpours across much of the South Island as well as Northland, the Coromandel Peninsula, eastern Waikato and Taupō.

Boil water notices were in place for many places in Otago due to the flooding, especially for those using a bore water supply, and people should check for updates about water warnings on their local council website before using tap water.

Dunedin City Council said the waste water system may have been affected by heavy rain, so the flood waters should be treated as contaminated.

From midday, a tanker would provide water to residents wanting to fill up containers beside the Strath-Taieri Community Centre.

Contractors were cleaning up damage and debris left by the flooding, slips and washouts, and in Southland Tong said he was hopeful roads would reopen later on Sunday.

Many local roads were affected, and in Otago, there were still closures on State Highway 87 between Kyeburn and Outram, and between Otematata and Aviemore due to flooding and a washout; as well as on State Highway 90 between Waikoikoi and Tapanui.

In the Bay of Plenty, State Highway 2 was also closed between Nukuhou and Kutarere, and between Opotiki and Gisborne, because of flooding and slips after heavy rain last night.

MetService said 150mm of rain had fallen on some parts of Otago in the last 24 hours, with one weather station in the hills recording more than 200mm between midday on 1 January and midnight last night.

Otago Civil Defence controller Matt Alley said motorists should be particularly careful on the roads on Sunday, and should highway check conditions before heading out, as well as the state of local roads, which were posted on local council websites.

Thunderstorms could take place on Sunday afternoon that might bring localised downpours and flash flooding, which could be severe from Clutha to North Otago, with Dunedin within the area that could be worst hit.