Wild rain easing on West Coast

PRESS REPORTERS
Last updated 08:40 16/07/2012

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Two state highways remain closed on the West Coast this morning, but the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) hopes they will be able to reopen later today.

SH 73, from Springfield to Arthurs Pass, was still closed but an update on the road would be made about 10am.

SH 65, from Murchison to Springs Junction, was also closed and an update was expected about 3pm.

NZTA West Coast area manager Mark Pinner told Radio New Zealand this morning that they would not know what the damge to the roads was until flooding eased.

"At the end of the day we have to wait for the river to go down."

Pinner said slips may occur later in the week because of the heavy rainfall and could disrupt traffic depending on how serious they were.

Westport accessible again

Westport was accessible again last night after a day when heavy rain battered the northwest of the South Island causing rivers to rise, triggering landslips and surface flooding and cutting the West Coast town off.

State Highway 6 to Greymouth was the only route into town late yesterday, having been reopened after landslips were cleared.

SH6 between Westport and Inangahua and SH65 from Murchison to Springs Junction remained closed until at least this morning and SH67 north of Westport to Karamea was also shut.

The Buller River rose to 11.3 metres but eased to 11 metres before high tide, due just after 8pm last night.

The highest recorded level was in August 1970 when it hit 11.8m.

Last night, Buller District Council community and environmental services manager Craig Scanlon said the falling levels were encouraging.

"It's angling down at the moment so we're in a pretty good position.

"Surface flooding around town has subsided a lot."

SH6 in the Buller Gorge was monitored overnight and would be reassessed this morning, he said.

"It would certainly be unsafe [overnight]. There was substantial surface flooding."

Rain was easing in most places by yesterday afternoon. Westport resident Jim Halsall said the Buller River was "looking pretty full" by then. "It's up to the edge of the road but I've seen that before . . . there's some flooding but it looks like it's clearing."

Halsall, a Buller District councillor, said the river was the highest he had seen it for about 15 years.

"We're quite used to being cut off though, a lot of people don't even know we live here," he joked.

"The fire brigade had a few calls overnight so I'm presuming they have been pumping water off properties and that sort of thing."

The general manager of roading company Westreef Services, Stephen Lowe, spent yesterday clearing debris from roads between Westport and Karamea.

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"There [were] a number of slips on local roads," he said.

"They cross the overflow for the Buller River. We'll assess the damage [today]."

Some minor roads were cleared enough to reopen, he said, but many remained closed.

In the Nelson-Tasman region, heavy rain caused surface flooding to roads and to some houses.

Nelson-Tasman Civil Defence said the Takaka-Collingwood Highway at Waitapu Bridge reopened at 4pm yesterday but advised extreme driver caution.

In Nelson, Avon Tce from Bridge St to Hardy St were closed and sandbags were in place, but Maitai Valley Rd at Sharlands Creek had reopened.

In Marlborough, SH6 from Havelock to Wangamoa was closed because of flooding.

A Nelson-Tasman Civil Defence spokeswoman said there had been no injuries reported and no properties had to be evacuated.

In Golden Bay the Pohara Camp area and Motupipi School had minor flooding.

The Wakamarina River had overflowed its banks in several areas and a close watch was being kept on the Wairau River, which was expected to peak at midnight.

While conditions eased in the South Island, MetService issued a severe-weather warning for the lower North Island.

Significant rainfalls were expected about the Tararua Range where up to 200 millimetres was predicted.

MetService forecaster Daniel Corbett said the front was "like a wiggling snake with different lumps of moisture".

While the main part of the front would make its way over Wellington during the middle part of today, the final strike would come later tonight and tomorrow morning before it eventually cleared.

- The Press

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