Emergency centre has early test

As bad weather from Cyclone Lusi moves down the country towards the top of the South Island, a new emergency operations centre in Richmond has had to prepare for "heavy and persistent rain" expected to hit tomorrow before it has officially been opened.

Flooding is expected in the Nelson region, with 100mm of rain expected to fall in the mountains.

"You're not quite into the wet and windy weather yet. You are in store for quite a bit of heavy, persistent rain to some of your ranges particularly west of Motueka," MetService meteorologist Daniel Corbett said this morning.

He said stocking up on DVDs for a day indoors tomorrow might not be a bad idea.

"Go down to the video store and get as many as you can and get loads of books," he said.

"Today is an OK day for folks to just get out, the cloud is increasing, but as you go through into the afternoon there's a few spots of rain and certainly by the evening that main band of rain spreads in and initially it is an east-northeast wind that becomes the northwest-north wind and that, of course, just feeds it right into the bay and it will really just pile its way in so there could be some yucky weather to come for you," said Mr Corbett.

The rain is expected to clear by late Sunday evening and in the early hours of Monday.

The new emergency operations centre, jointly funded by the Tasman District Council and the Nelson City Council, has had a "real push" to get the centre ready for the bad weather.

"This event coming along presents us with a little bit of a challenge, but it's also great opportunity to exercise and practise," said the manager of emergency management, Roger Ball.

"We are confident we have enough here and it's going to be more efficient for us to operate from there than set up the Tasman council chamber," he said.

"It's not ideal yet, but it is more efficient than trying to kick everybody else out of the meeting room over there and disrupt all of their business and then have to box it all up there on Monday," he said.

His team are working with emergency services and local volunteers to prepare for the bad weather.

The centre was designed with risks in minds and was built to withstand disasters.

"This building is extraordinarily, exceptionally safe. It is built to what is called importance level 4 and 100 per cent of the new building standards. The importance level 4 means it must be able to stand up and survive and continue functioning after a major earthquake," he said.

As a result of flooding in April last year the building plans were redone and the floor was built above the flood level from that "one in 500-year event".

The idea for the project started in 2008 - other regions such as Marlborough have had similar centres for years.

The Nelson Mail