As it happened: Wet and wild Canterbury weather as red-alert level deluge swamps region

A red-alert level deluge is swamping the Canterbury region, with widespread flooding forcing Timaru, Ashburton, and Selwyn to declare a state of emergency and leading to the evacuation of two communities.

A state of local emergency has also been declared in Canterbury.

Cantabrians rushed to prepare for the inundation of rainfall on Saturday after MetService issued its second-ever "red warning" earlier this week.

The wet weather is causing dangerous river conditions and extensive flooding across the region. Slips and floodwaters are disrupting travel, making some roads impassable and "possibly isolating communities", according to MetService.

"Heavy rain may cause streams and rivers to rise rapidly. Surface flooding and slips are also possible and driving conditions may be hazardous," it said.

Some areas are expecting to receive up to three months worth of rain in three days - which would make it the most significant rainfall in a decade. 

What you need to know 

  • MetService has issued a rare red alert warning for the area south of Amberley to the Waitaki River with significant rainfall sweeping the Canterbury region
  • dozens of Christchurch homes are without power due to the deluge
  • prolonged heavy rain and king tides are causing flooding in parts of Christchurch and Banks Peninsula
  • several roads, including state highways 73 and 79, have been closed due to slips and flooding
  • multiple rescues are being undertaken by emergency crews
  • flooding has sparked evacuations of the Selwyn Huts settlement and the small community of Winchester
  • Christchurch's Heathcote River has broken its banks in several places, flooding neighbouring streets
  • the Selwyn Huts settlement and small town of Winchester have been evacuated.

These live updates have finished.

9:05pm - A "do not consume" notice is in place for the Springfield water supply, the Selwyn District Council says.

"If you have an alternative source available please use this. The water supply is available for bathing and hygiene purposes, however adverse weather conditions have worsened over the past few hours increasing the turbidity of this water supply and the Council cannot guarantee the supply is safe to drink," they say.

"Urgent supplies of bottled water will be made available at the Springfield Fire Station."

8:55pm - The Hurunui District Council has released an up-to-date list of road closures in the area.

The closures are:

  • Hurunui Bluff Rd - continual rock fall and slips
  • Powers Rd - closed by Waitohi Peaks Rd
  • Bakers Rd
  • Lake Sumner Rd - closed By Waitohi Domain
  • Homeview Rd
  • Medbury Rd - closed by Gilbert and Peaks. 


  • Horsley Terrace Rd - the river is flowing through the paddock and flooding over the road
  • Leader Rd rockfall - there are signs and rocks will be cleared first thing on Monday.

8:40pm - The Waimakariri District Council says the Eyre River stop banks from Wolffs Rd are expected to fail. Everyone along the river from Wolffs Rd and north of the Eyre River to North Eyre Rd must leave immediately, they say.

Those within the red outline illustrated below must leave immediately.

As it happened: Wet and wild Canterbury weather as red-alert level deluge swamps region
Photo credit: Waimakariri District Council

Additionally, the Ashley River/Rakahuri stop bank is at risk of failure. Fernside residents between Mt Thomas Rd, Oxford Rd, and Merton Rd should evacuate immediately. Rangiora urban areas are deemed safe.

Those within the blue outline below should evacuate immediately.

As it happened: Wet and wild Canterbury weather as red-alert level deluge swamps region
Photo credit: Waimakariri District Council

Evacuation centres are at the Mandeville Sports Centre and Rangiora Baptist Church. The district council says to stay away from the river and surrounding areas until further notice.

8:30pm - A Canterbury farmer has described how he and his tractor aided in the rescue of two people from a car trapped in "deep and swift" floodwaters near the Ashburton River.

Farmer David Clark says his Sunday started early with a call from a neighbour and good friend who lives on the other side of the Ashburton River. 

"He was out checking stock and shifting stock at half-past-four this morning and a car went past his farm that he noticed and realised hadn't continued up the road. It had actually fallen in a hole."

The car had been washed into floodwaters. Clark's neighbour rang 111 which was followed by the call to Clark, telling him a large tractor was needed to aid rescue efforts.

Clark took his tractor out to the site of the incident in "pitch black" darkness and torrential rain. He says the tractor "fortunately" has "very very good" lighting.

Read the full story here.

8:20pm - The Ashburton District Council has established an animal welfare centre. If you're local and you need assistance for your pets, call 03 307 7700.

8pm - The Ministry of Education says 52 schools and kura and 24 early learning services have confirmed they will be closed on Monday.

The ministry didn't release a list of schools and centres that will shut. They are instead asking students and families to directly check with their school, kura, or early learning centre on their status for Monday via regular channels, such as their website.

Deputy secretary for sector enablement and support Katrina Casey says a state of emergency doesn't automatically mean schools and early learning centres will close. Instead, she says boards and service managers are best placed to assess their local conditions and make these decisions.

"Many have indicated they will make an assessment and a final decision early tomorrow morning," Casey says.

"We are working closely with those schools, kura and early learning services that need additional advice and support."

The Mackenzie District Council earlier confirmed that Mackenzie College, Fairlie Primary, and St Joseph's Fairlie will all close on Monday.

7:30pm - The Timaru District Council has released a list of Civil Defence centres in the area.

They are:

  • Timaru at Southern Trust Events Centre, Morgans Road
  • Temuka at Alpine Energy Stadium, Temuka Domain. Motel accommodation in Temuka is completely booked out
  • Geraldine is operating two centres: one at Geraldine High School and another at St Andrews Church Hall, Cox St
  • Please note - pets are welcome at CDC only if they are in a container, such as a crate.

7pm - The Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management Group has declared a state of local emergency in Canterbury as a result of the extensive flooding.

Chair of the Joint Committee, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel, made the declaration at 4:45pm on Sunday, extending the state of emergency across Canterbury following local declarations of emergency in the Timaru, Ashburton, and Selwyn districts.

Dalziel says the group felt it was important they declare an emergency for the entire Canterbury region, which will give local authorities the ability to take any action required as the situation unfolds. 

"It also means all of the region's resources are available, and we don't have to worry about territorial boundaries," she says. 

6:40pm - The Christchurch City Council is warning the next high tide at 8pm is likely to bring more flooding.

There will then be another high tide at 8:30pm on Monday.

"The roads that have been closed today are likely to remain closed until the high tides have passed tomorrow so if you normally travel these routes to get to work or school, please start thinking about making alternate plans," they say.

"If anyone living close to a river or waterway is feeling at all unsafe, they should self-evacuate."

6:20pm - The Timaru District Council has released an interactive map showing road closures and restrictions in the area.

The council advises people to only travel if it is absolutely necessary.

6pm - It's time for Newshub Live at 6pm for the latest on the floods. Watch online here or tune in on Three.

5:45pm - The Ashburton District Council says due to running treatment on the water supply in current conditions, plants are running without any filtration at all.

"Water quality will be very poor particularly for those connected to Methven water scheme. Water boil for these two schedule remains in place," they say.

5:30pm - Dramatic footage has emerged of a Canterbury farmer being rescued after they were trapped by flooding.

The video shows a helicopter hovering over a flooded river before the farmer clings on and is taken to safety.

Watch the video here.

5:15pm - MetService says the deep low that's been dominating New Zealand's weather will cross the North Island on Monday and move to the east.

Winds will turn southerly along the east coast and rain currently affecting Canterbury will ease and be dragged north.

5pm - The Mackenzie District Council says they are receiving reports of road closure signs being removed or ignored.

"Doing this puts others at risk and puts additional pressure on our emergency services and maintenance crews who are working hard in difficulty conditions and are likely to have another 12 hours of hard work ahead of them," they say.

"Please stay at home unless travel is absolutely essential."

4:30pm - Those in Christchurch who are due to put their bins out for kerbside collection on Monday are asked to put them out tomorrow morning before 6am rather than overnight, if possible.

The Christchurch City Council says this is to help avoid bins blowing over with high potential winds overnight.

"If your street is closed due to flooding and you have a kerbside collection scheduled for Monday, please do not put your bins out until your street has re-opened," the council says.

"Our Resource Recovery (Kerbside Collection) staff will organise for your bins to be collected when this happens."

4:15pm - There are several state highway and road closures across Canterbury as a result of the flooding.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency says the persistent rainfall has closed several state highways. Others are being watched and may be closed if surface flooding continues and as night approaches with reduced visibility.

"Please avoid travelling through south and mid-Canterbury and postpone your trips wherever possible on all these routes," says Tresca Forrester, journey manager for Waka Kotahi.

See the full list of closures here.

4pm - The Ashburton District Council is advising locals in a number of areas to prepare for evacuation.

Locals in the town, particularly in the vicinities of Allenton, Netherby, and Racecourse Road, are asked to prepare should there be a breach in Ashburton River stopbanks.

The council says while no evacuation decision has been made yet, residents should be ready and plan for an evacuation upon official notice.

3:45pm - The course at Hororata Golf Club in Glentunnel has been severely flooded.

Photos posted to Facebook show a "few new water hazards" on the course. 

3:35pm - The Selwyn District Council has declared a local state of emergency.

Civil Defence advises locals to stay away from floodwater, avoid travel unless it's absolutely necessary, and check on your neighbours.

Selwyn Civil Defence controller Douglas Marshall says the emergency declaration will help authorities to better manage the situation across the district.

"Many areas of the district are continuing to be affected by flooding and disruption of services," he says.

"With a declaration in place we will be better placed to manage road closures which are expected across the district throughout today, especially if the state highway network is affected."

Marshall says motorists should expect continuing flooding and road closures and restrictions. Areas around the Selwyn River and between SH1 and Leeston are likely to be disrupted.

"We really do urge people to stay off the roads. Travel is likely to be disrupted for some time, and we do not want to see travellers becoming trapped. The best thing for people to do is avoid driving for the foreseeable future."

3:20pm - Volunteers from Civil Defence are providing welfare checks for residents in areas affected by the flooding. Volunteers are going door-to-door to see if people need any assistance.

If anyone does require urgent assistance, they can call the Council Contact Centre on 941-8999.

3:05pm - A group of people have been helped to safety after getting caught in rising floodwaters in north Canterbury.

A helicopter was called to Foothills Road, where the Ashley River had breached its banks.

A Fire and Emergency spokesperson told Newshub the group is uninjured.

2:55pm - Public health advice:

The Canterbury District Health Board has provided the following advice for those in flood-affected areas.

  • avoid contact with flood waters if you can and assume they will be contaminated by sewage. There is also a danger of injury from floating objects and hazards hidden below the surface
  • if there are power outages in your area, be wary of power lines that might be down and even more hazardous in wet conditions
  • if you do come into contact with flood waters, change out of any wet clothes and shoes and put them aside to be washed later. Wash skin that has come into contact with flood waters, and wash your hands as soon as you reasonably can, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser
  • if you lose power at any stage, avoid opening your fridge and freezers unnecessarily. If frozen food has been defrosted but has been kept chilled, it should be used as soon as possible. Do not refreeze high-risk items such as meat, fish and poultry. If you think these high-risk items may have been at room temperature for two or more hours, do not eat them - if in doubt, throw it out.
  • continue to check on neighbours and vulnerable people near where you live. Check they have supplies, including their medications
  • if you need to see a GP and have trouble getting there, phone them for advice. Even if they are closed, your call will be put through to a nurse who can advise you on what to do. 
  • if you require emergency care, do as you normally would - the 111 service and ambulances are operating as normal, subject to changing road conditions. The Emergency Department at Christchurch Hospital, ambulances and Urgent Care Clinics (24hr Surgery, Moorhouse Medical Centre and Riccarton Clinic ) are all open
  • if you have an appointment either today or tomorrow (or while the weather disruption lasts), please assume it will go ahead unless you are contacted to say otherwise. If you cannot make your appointment, please let us know as soon as you can by calling the number on your appointment letter.

2:45pm - More than 1000 homes are now also without power across Christchurch.

Local power company Orion has deployed crews to multiple outages, with 555 homes in the Papanui and Chaneys areas now affected.

"It's a really serious situation here in Canterbury, the rivers are breaking in multiple places," Federated Farmers president David Clark said.

2:35pm - Around 3000 homes could be flooded if the Ashburton River breaches its banks, Minister Faafoi told reporters.

The heavy downpour is set to continue overnight and into Monday, meaning water levels will continue to rise, Faafoi said.

The state of emergency for the Ashburton District has been declared for seven days.

2:30pm - Acting Emergency Management Minister Kris Faafoi is holding a press conference to discuss the flooding and evacuations in Canterbury. Watch here.

2:20pm - Concerned locals have shared footage of cows stranded on flooded land in Ashburton as the town continues to face torrential downpour.

Other footage from the area shows the rolling waves of the swelling Ashburton River earlier this morning.

1:50pm - Canterbury Police are urging the public to avoid leaving their homes as they are "putting themselves at serious risk" - as well as the lives of emergency personnel and rescue crews.

"We are aware a number of people have been leaving their homes to check out the flooding, putting themselves at serious risk," Canterbury Police posted on Facebook.

"Police urge everyone in the affected areas to stay home, hunker down and wait for the weather to pass if they don't absolutely need to go outside.

"Putting yourself at risk by sightseeing the floodwaters also puts emergency services and rescue crews at risk."

1:30pm - Fire and Emergency (FENZ) are responding to calls from members of the public who are seeking help with flooding in their homes.

"At this stage, call volumes have not been unusually high," FENZ said in a statement on Sunday.

Crews have been involved in two rescues this morning. The first involved people who became trapped in flood waters in the Ashburton Forks area, and the second involved a vehicle swept down the Ashley River. The driver and sole occupant was later found in a serious condition.

Motorists are reminded to respect all road closure signs and not to attempt to drive through floodwaters.

Check local council websites and Waka Kotahi / NZTA for road updates and safety information.

12:50pm - A man is in a serious condition after his vehicle was swept down Ashley River in south Canterbury this morning, police confirmed to Newshub.

The man was later found at a property on Barkers Road, Loburn - located close to the river - an hour after the vehicle was first spotted in the water.

"The timeline and sequence of events on this incident is still unclear," the spokesperson said.

The man was flown by rescue helicopter to Christchurch Hospital.

12:35pm - More than 550 homes in Christchurch are without power as the downpour continues, with roughly another 700 experiencing outages throughout wider central Canterbury, according to local power company Orion. 

12:25pm - Two state highways remain closed in Canterbury due to the current and persistent rainfall throughout the region.

SH73, linking the West Coast and Canterbury between Springfield/Porter's Pass and Castle Hill, was closed due to slips and surface flooding. An update on the closure will be provided at 3pm.

If the deluge continues, the route could remain closed overnight.

SH79 from Fairlie to Geraldine also remains closed due to surface flooding. 

People planning to travel through Kaikōura on SH1 are advised to check the traffic map before departing, with more rain forecast for later on Sunday.

There is also water on the surface of SH8 from Fairlie to Tekapo, through Burkes Pass. Drivers are asked to take care when travelling.

"Please check your local councils’ Facebook pages for specific information and if you can avoid travelling along these flooded routes today, please do so,” says Tresca Forrester, the journey manager for Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.

12:05pm - The community of Selwyn Huts is being evacuated as the severe weather continues to rage on in Canterbury.

Shortly after 11:30am, the Selwyn District Council announced that residents of upper and lower Selwyn Huts have been asked to evacuate, with rising river levels threatening to cut off access to the settlement.

Local authorities say the Selwyn River is continuing to swell, with a breakout above the community likely to occur later on Sunday or overnight. 

Officials are concerned the community could become isolated if flooding cuts off Days Road, the only way to access the settlement. 

"In flood conditions, the road will be impassable for cars and residents would not be able to leave the area," Civil Defence controller Gerard Moore told the Council.

"The evacuation will help us ensure that residents are safe and are not stuck at the huts for a prolonged period, if the river flows stay high."

The flooding is not expected to reach the Selwyn Huts settlement itself.

Residents are now being encouraged to evacuate to the homes of friends and family, if possible. The road will be closed after the evacuation order and security will be in place until it is safe for residents to return.

Civil Defence expect road access to be regained early in the coming week.

12pm - A state of emergency has also been declared for Timaru as of 11:50am, according to Mayor Nigel Bowen.

11:50am - Authorities are responding to a number of callouts in South Canterbury due to heavy flooding in the area, a police spokesperson told Newshub shortly after 11:30am.

The spokesperson said a number of people have been leaving their homes to observe the flooding, putting themselves at "serious risk".

They reiterated that residents in affected areas are urged to remain at home and wait for the wild weather to pass before venturing outside. 

"Police urge everyone in the affected areas to stay home, hunker down and wait for the weather to pass if they don’t absolutely need to go outside," the spokesperson said. "Putting yourself at risk by sightseeing the floodwaters also puts emergency services and rescue crews at risk."

The person who became trapped in a river shortly before 10am in the Ashburton Forks area has been safely rescued by emergency services, the spokesperson confirmed.

Rescue crews have also managed to safely retrieve a person who was trapped due to severe flooding on Walkhams Road in Ashburton.

11:40am - Residents of Ashburton have been asked to boil their water due to silt contaminating the streams.

The Ashburton District Council has warned people in the Methven and Mount Somers areas to boil water used for drinking, food preparation and hygiene purposes.

"This is pretty horrendous weather… if you don't need to be on the roads, hunker down, stay home," said duty officer Howe.

11:35am - Civil Defence duty officer Andrew Howe told Newshub there has been significant flooding on rural roads and farmland in Ashburton, with officials "highly concerned" about the state of the Ashburton River (Hakatere).

Howe said the situation is being monitored "very closely", particularly around the river's north and south branches, in case evacuations are required. 

At this stage, officials believe the Ashburton River could breach its banks at Bixby Bridge or at Anama Valetta Road.

The Canterbury regional council's flood controller, Shaun McCracken, told RNZ the situation is most severe in the mid-Canterbury, Ashburton and Hinds River areas, particularly at Ashburton Forks and Thompson's Track.

Rivers in the upper part of those catchments were flowing very high, with gauges recording some of the highest volumes ever, he said. 

"We're already seeing water out of the rivers over roads, so there's places that are already starting to be cut off and bridges that can't be used," McCracken told the outlet.

11:30am - Christchurch's Heathcote River (Ōpāwaho) has broken its banks by Clarendon Terrace, with local authorities warning residents to expect fresh flooding in the city with the next high tide.

Canterbury Regional Civil Defence Emergency Management duty officer, Andrew Howe, told Newshub that the river, which lies within the city's boundaries, is prone to overtop its banks in some areas.

The spillage has swamped the neighbouring streets, he said, however it's understood the water has not yet flooded any homes.

Christchurch City Council spokesperson Tim Drennan said the receding tide will provide some respite over the coming hours, but the next high tide will bring a fresh deluge of water. 

"With the next high tide due at 8pm, we expect to see flooding occurring again. If people have vehicles parked in areas affected by flooding this morning, we advise they move them this afternoon before the next high tide," Drennan said in a statement.

"Most of the roads that we have closed this morning due to flooding are likely to remain closed until the high tides have passed tomorrow so if you normally travel these routes to get to work or school, please start thinking about alternative ways of travel."

11:25am - Both Geraldine High School and Geraldine Primary School will be closed on Monday as the weather continues to batter the Canterbury region.

11:15am - Locals are taking to social media to share snaps of the wild weather as swelling rivers threaten to burst in Canterbury.

11:05am - These are the weather warnings currently in place for the Canterbury region:

  • Heavy rain warning for Canterbury south of Amberley
  • Heavy rain warning for Canterbury, about and north of Amberley
  • Strong wind warning for Canterbury coast, north of Ashburton, including the Banks Peninsula.

"The rain is expected to cause dangerous river conditions and significant flooding. Slips and floodwaters are likely to disrupt travel, making some roads impassable and possibly isolating communities," MetService says.

"Heavy rain may cause streams and rivers to rise rapidly. Surface flooding and slips are also possible and driving conditions may be hazardous.

"Strong wind gusts could damage trees, powerlines and unsecured structures. Driving may be hazardous, especially for high-sided vehicles and motorcycles."

11am - Two rescue operations are currently underway in Ashburton Forks amid the severe flooding.

The first person is still awaiting rescue, police said. The second was understood to be trapped in an unidentified river at around 10am.

10:50am - According to Christchurch-based power company Orion, more than 700 homes are currently experiencing power outages due to the extreme weather.

As of 11am, almost 500 outages have been reported across Brookside, Doyleston, Irwell, Leeston, Selwyn, Selwyn Huts and Springston South.

An additional 230 have been recorded in Island Bay, Lucas Bay and Wainui.

A further 21 homes are without power in Rolleston, with six properties affected in Halswell.

10:40am - MetService has updated its warnings for the Canterbury region as the wet and wild weather storms on.

Between now and 11am on Monday, the Canterbury High Country and foothills can expect a further 150-200mm of rain. The Canterbury Plains and coast are also expected to receive an additional 70-110mm.

10:30am - Ashburton District Mayor Neil Brown has told Newshub the rain is continuing to pour down in torrents - and the worst could still be yet to come.

"It's still raining, it hasn't stopped. It could get worse yet, we don't know," he said. "We're hoping the rain will ease shortly and let the rivers discharge the rainwater and start dropping again."

10:25am - A state of emergency has been declared in Ashburton District, according to Mayor Neil Brown. 

"if the rain keeps coming and the rivers keep rising, we're planning for evacuation of some parts of Ashburton if needed. It's not at that stage yet," Brown told Newshub on Sunday morning. "By declaring it early, we've got plans in place for the next steps, if required."

Brown urged locals to stay put for the timebeing.

"Stay where you are, stay at home. If you need any assistance please ring the council's phone number... if you don't need assistance, stay at home, and watch for the next updates."

10am - Emergency services are evacuating residents in Winchester as the small rural community is inundated with rainfall.

Fire crews, police and Civil Defence are working to remove residents from the area.

Volunteer firefighters from Ashburton and Timaru have attended several callouts throughout the morning due to the severe flooding.

9:40am - Several stations in the Canterbury High Country have recorded more than 160mm of rain since 3pm on Saturday, according to MetService, with one station sitting at 200mm and another at "a whopping" 300mm.

9:35am - A person is waiting to be winched to safety in Ashburton as the severe deluge continues in Canterbury.

A police spokesperson told Newshub a helicopter is on its way to Walkhams Road.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand crews have continued to receive call-outs to flooding and roof leakages across the region.

Civil Defence is briefing emergency services on the day ahead and MetService is expected to give an update on the forecast shortly.

9:25am - State Highway 79 from Fairlie to Geraldine is currently closed due to flooding. Motorists are asked to use an alternative route.

State Highway 73 from Springfield to Castle Hill is also closed due to slips.

"Please continue to delay your journey," says the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).

9:20am - A police spokesperson told Newshub earlier flooding had been recorded in several Christchurch suburbs overnight, including on Belfast's Main North Rd and Aranui's Anzac Dr, where traffic management remained in place.

9:15am - Dozens of Christchurch homes woke up without power on Sunday morning as the red-alert level rainfall set in overnight.

Central Canterbury lines company Orion said as of 6:10am on Sunday, 241 homes in Christchurch had their power restored - but another 80 remained without in the Selwyn District.

8:55am - Police and Fire and Emergency crews have been called to rescue a person in Ashburton.

A police spokesperson told Newshub emergency services were called Walkhams Road at around 8am after the person became stranded in a flooded area.

A helicopter has also been dispatched.