Stranded cruise passengers resume journey

Passengers stranded by bad weather in Akaroa last night have resumed their journey.

The Sea Princess left the harbour about 6pm.

Passengers were taken across to the ship in boat loads from 1pm.

The ship is on its way to Fiordland.

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker travelled to Akaroa this morning to check on the cruise ship passengers following their "rather unique" experience.

"I said I'm sorry it's the first ship of the season and you got caught up in the storm, and they said 'no, no, we've had a great time'."

There was a "very positive atmosphere'' in the town, and the passengers had enjoyed the local hospitality overnight, he said.

"I think there were a couple there who were missing the fact they didn't have an en-suite bathroom last night, bit I spoke to dozens of people who spoke about the generosity of the local community."

The unexpected overnight stay had given an extra boost to the Banks Peninsula town, he said.

"All the accommodation was booked out overnight because of this.'' 

Cafes and other businesses also opened their doors early this morning to cater to the passengers while they waited to re-board their ship.

The weather was clearing this morning, and the harbour was "looking a lot flatter now". 

Parker also thanked the Akaroa community and local Civil Defence workers who "really stood up again and did a wonderful job".

Meanwhile, fifty people were airlifted out of Milford Sound yesterday, with reports the road could be closed for "days" following a huge slip.

Forty people on an overnight cruise with Real Journeys were among tourists and workers stranded when an avalanche threw 200-tonne rocks across the only road into the village.

Real Journeys chief executive Richard Lauder, who was also stranded in Milford Sound, said two helicopters airlifted about 50 people across the slip yesterday.

Some abandoned their rental cars in the village after talking to their travel insurers and rental car companies, he said.

A small number of people decided to stay in Milford Sound.

"Anyone who wanted to get out, got out, and anybody who wanted to stay did."

Those who flew over the slip were then bused to Te Anau or Queenstown.

Lauder said Milford Sound experienced about 10 days of road closures every winter, and had seen about seven so far this year.

The closures usually only lasted for 24 hours though.

In Redcliffs, Carly Bustin and Bruce Waddleton will have some work to do to get their veggie patch going again. "Our greenhouse tried to make it across to Oz. We ended up chasing the side panels across the fields. All the metal completely buckled," said Bustin.

In Bexley, Canterbury University student Maxim Millen slogged through the day getting soaking wet at the Bexley and New Brighton spring clean up. "I'm doing this to get a ticket to The Concert next month. Hopefully it will be worth it."

Meanwhile in Akaroa passengers from the Sea Princess cruise ship had an interesting night After being unable to board the boat to take them back to the ship, nearly 700 people were relocated around the village and in Christchurch for the night.

Mike and Joyce Evans from Citris Heights in California and Ginine and Robert Agnew from Toronto, who spent the night in the Akaroa Area School gymnasium, said that they were 22 days into a 28 day cruise that started in San Fransciso and ended in Sydney and that this was the hardest part of the cruise so far, not the worst, but the two pieces of bread with a sausage between them was an interesting experence.

For yesterday's trip they had been told to dress warmly and wear walking shoes but nevery dreamed they would not be able to get back to the ship.

A Christchurch City Council spokeswoman said the cruise ship operators had hoped to leave Akaroa harbour at 9am today, but the sea was "still a little rough''. 

The weather appeared to be improving though, she said.

"They're looking at trying to re-board at 1pm.'' 

Nearly 70 runners braved driving rain, cold winds and even the odd snow flurry to take part in the annual Crater Rim run this morning. 

The run, either a 16k or 23k loop along the tops of the Port Hills has been forced to reduce its distance from the 20k and 30k options due to the earthquakes which forced some tracks to close due to rockfall risk.

Organiser Kevin Jago, of the Port Hills Club, said the event went 'very well' despite the challenging weather.

The run which started at 8am at St Martins school, is in its 11th year.

The cold temperatures coupled with the rain made it possibly the worst weather the event had seen, said Jago.

NZ Transport Agency contractors have also begun clearing debris from the major landslide which came down on the Milford Road overnight on Friday.

Work to clear debris including rocks as large as 200 tonnes covering 200m of the road began early this morning, following geotechnical assessments of the site yesterday.

NZTA Southern Area Manager Peter Robinson says the work will be carried out as quickly as possible, and the site will be closely monitored to ensure the safety of workers. Mr Robinson says at this stage the agency was aiming to re-open the road to a single lane by this Wednesday.

Mr Robinson said the length of the closure and the timing for a full re-opening to two lanes would depend on how quickly contractors are able to break the large rocks apart and remove them.

"Some of the large boulders are estimated to be in the vicinity of 200 tonnes and it appears that the seal under the rocks has been damaged. The road will be re-opened as soon as the debris can be cleared and the NZTA can be confident that the road is safe for travellers to use."

Mr Robinson thanked people for their patience, and said a further update would be provided on Monday morning.

For further information on weather conditions and other road closures in the area, updated every two minutes, visit

Fairfax Media