Christchurch residents evacuated by boat as Heathcote River floods

Marcia Butterfield

The Heathcote River on Centaurus Rd, Christchurch, in severe flood.

Wastewater is overflowing onto flooded Christchurch streets as several pump stations struggle with overwhelming inflow.

Flooded affected residents near the Heathcote River were evacuated in boats because the current was too strong for them to leave on foot.

Significant flooding inundated many streets at the foot of the Port Hills as tides peaked about 3.15pm on Saturday. Police would patrol areas overnight where people had evacuated.


The Heathcote River in south Christchurch has flooded.

Christchurch city received 36mm of rainfall since midnight on Friday, MetService said. Parts of Banks Peninsula had 60mm in the same time period.

All Christchurch and Banks Peninsula residents were asked to use as little water as possible overnight. 

The Christchurch water supply was still safe to drink, and security of supply in Banks Peninsula was being maintained by tankers where no bore supply was available.

The state of emergency has been declared in Christchurch after the Heathcote River burst its banks.

The state of emergency has been declared in Christchurch after the Heathcote River burst its banks.

Civil Defence advised people who had not already evacuated flooded Christchurch areas to remain in their homes overnight.

The Heathcote River was still significantly flooded at nightfall, and high tide would be at 3.42am, so people who had already evacuated were asked to stay away from their property for the night.

Christchurch City Council spokesman Ross Pringle earlier said: "If you live in an evacuation zone near the Heathcote River, if your home has flooded since the earthquakes, and the water is above knee level around your house, the current may be dangerous, so for your safety, please stay in your house until help arrives."

Sloane Tce residents are knee-deep in water.

Sloane Tce residents are knee-deep in water.

"Response teams are out in boats, and some support is being provided from the army to assist you out of your home if necessary. Please call the Council call centre on 0800 800 169 if you are concerned about your safety or want help to evacuate.

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"We expect the high tide to cause significant flooding in these areas."

He said residents on Clarendon Terrace, Richardson Terrace, Hunter Terrace, Eastern Terrace, Riverlaw Terrace, Palatine Terrace, Ford Road near Louison Place, Waimea Terrace and other low lying areas around the Heathcote should evacuate.

The Heathcote River flooding near Sloane Tce.

The Heathcote River flooding near Sloane Tce.

Community and Public Health has advised that flooded houses would likely be contaminated. People coming into contact with flood water are being told to wash their hands thoroughly.

The Linwood Civil Defence Centre for welfare assistance at Linwood High School closed at 8pm on Saturday. The Christchurch City Council were providing accommodation for two people overnight. If needed, the centre would reopen on Sunday.

A local state of emergency was declared on Saturday morning in Christchurch after the Heathcote River burst its banks and flooded southern parts of the city.

Residents feeling uncomfortable have been asked to self-evacuate before high tide.

Residents feeling uncomfortable have been asked to self-evacuate before high tide.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the declaration was a precautionary measure to allow the city to deal with any issues that could arise with the high tide due mid afternoon.

"The declaration will enable us to work with multiple agencies to respond, and quickly evacuate people should the need arise," she said.

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The flooded Heathcote River, at Opawa.

The flooded Heathcote River, at Opawa.

Coastguard New Zealand were using a four-metre inflatable rescue boat to help evacuate flooded residents around the Heathcote River.

The Coastguard was called by Civil Defence to assist in the evacuations at about 12.35pm. 

The vessel was equipped with emergency lighting, wetsuits and first aid supplies to ensure the volunteer crew could continue evacuations into the evening if required.

Christchurch's Heathcote River was in flood on Saturday morning.

Christchurch's Heathcote River was in flood on Saturday morning.

The Civil Defence Centre in central Christchurch re-opened at midday.

A resident on Cashmere's Sloan Tce resident, Cate, who did not want her last name used, said it was just a waiting game to see how much damage there would be – and when. 

"It just gets you really low, it's really hard and some of these people were also hit badly in the last floods so they're doing it really tough.

The flooded Heathcote River in Christchurch.

The flooded Heathcote River in Christchurch.

"The water damages in a way that earthquakes don't, it get gets into everything and leaves it just completely ruined," Cate said.

Soaking wet and exhausted, she was trekking up and down the small, secluded street in waist deep, murky water checking on her neighbours, as they all always did in an emergency. 

"We're down a back property, so if we have to get out we can climb over the back fence, but these guys only have about three centimetres before it's in their homes, so it's just a waiting game. We will just wait and hope," Cate said.

A Christchurch City Council spokeswoman said Civil Defence was not evacuating residents at this stage, however a state of emergency allowed this to be done quickly if necessary.

Residents in the Heathcote area had been asked to self-evacuate before high-tide if they were feeling "uncomfortable".

Council roading teams had been dispatched around the city, while land drainage crews were working in Southshore.

Civil Defence response teams were heading to Heathcote to check on residents and assist them if necessary.

Police are urging rubber-neckers to stay away from places affected by the "wild weather".

Senior Sergeant Steve Bothamley urged people to stay home where possible and not to venture out in the hazardous conditions.

"Police have attended a number of jobs this morning where residents are only travelling to see the damage and witness the wild weather." 

Anyone venturing out in such conditions, contrary to emergency services warning, put the lives of both the rescued and rescuers at serious risk, he said.

"Just please be aware that by heading out in these conditions, you could end up taking valuable emergency services away from critical rescue operations."

Police across Canterbury were checking in on at risk people to provide reassurance.

Anyone self-evacuating was asked to contact their local council or, in the case of an emergency, call police. 

Farmers near Lake Ellesmere are being advised to move stock as its water level continues to rise.

Environment Canterbury has been unable to open the lake, which has no natural outlet to the sea, because of the weather conditions and a large swell overtopping the beach crest.

The lake was expected to continue rising as rain persisted and low-lying areas around the lake's shore were expected to flood.

Residents in the lower areas near Lake Ellesmere were advised to self-evacuate if they felt unsafe or anxious.

The forecast was for conditions to improve enough for works to start on Monday. The lake would take three days to open.

State highway closures are on the NZ Transport Agency Journeys website at

The following Christchurch roads are closed, according to Christchurch City Council:

Christchurch City

Ashgrove Tce – Young St to Colombo St and either side of Ferniehurst St
Avonside Dr – from Torlesse Rd to Wainoni Rd
Avonside Dr – from Woodham Rd to Retreat Rd
Avonside Dr – from Gayhurst Rd to Wainoni Rd
Aynsley Tce – Opawa Rd to Port Hills Rd
Aynsley Tce – from Centaurus Rd to Opawa Rd
Cashmere Rd – from Sutherlands Rd to Colombo St
Centaurus Rd – from Waka Tce to Gamblins Rd (now open from Colombo St to Whaka Tce)
Clarendon Tce – Opawa Rd to Radley St
Connal St – From Garlands Rd to Barton St
Cumnor Tce – from Garlands Rd to Marshall St
Dyers Pass Rd – from the Sign of the Kiwi to Governors Bay
Eastern Tce – from Birdwood Ave to Waltham Rd
Emmett St – from Shirley Rd to Orontes St
Emmett St – from Orcades St to Bellbrook Cres
Ernlea Tce – from Colombo St (cul de sac)
Fairfield Tce – whole street
Fifield Tce – From Wilsons Rd (cul de sac)
Fisher Ave – from Norwood St to Eastern Tce
Ford Rd – Opawa Rd to Louisson Pl
Gainsborough St – from Sparks Rd to Wyn St
Gilbert Pl – whole street
Hendersons Rd – from Sparks Rd to Cashmere Rd
Hunter Tce – from Malcolm Ave to Colombo St
New Brighton Rd – from Cresswell St to Lake Terrace Rd
Opawa Rd – from Ensors Rd to Brougham St
Palatine Tce – from Tennyson St to Centaurus Rd
Retreat Rd – from Avonside Dr to Gayhurst Rd
Richardson Tce – From Opawa Rd to Wildberry St
River Rd – from Banks Ave to Medway St
Riverlaw Tce – from Tennyson St to Hansons Park
Waimea Tce – from Colombo St to Birdwood Ave

Banks Peninsula

Charteris Bay Rd – from Gebbies Pass to Orton Bradley Park. Now open, some flooding remains
Christchurch Akaroa Rd (SH75) – from Halswell to Little River
Gebbies Pass Rd – Now open, slips, care required
Jubilee Rd – Wainui to Bossu Road (summit). Closed

Here's a list of the current South Island state highway closures, according to the New Zealand Transport Agency.

Route 70 - Waiau to Kaikoura. Slips and rockfall. Next update at midday Sunday.
SH1 - Rolleston to Rakaia. Flooding. Detour route: Northbound traffic use SH77 from Ashburton to Darfield and then SH73 from Darfield to Christchurch. Reverse for southbound.
SH75 - Halswell to Little River. Flooding. Detour route: n/a
SH1 - Pukeuri to Waitaki Bridge. Flooding. Detour route: Northbound traffic turn left onto SH83, right onto Seven Mile Rd to join back onto SH1. Reverse For Southbound.
SH87 - Kokonga to Kyeburn. Flooding. Detour route: n/a
SH85 - Kyeburn to Palmerston. Snow. Detour route: n/a
SH88 - Maia to Sawyers Bay. Flooding and slips. Detour route: Upper Junction Rd (Light vehicles only)
SH8 - Raes Junction to Milton. Flooding. Detour route: n/a
SH1 - Balclutha to Milton. Flooding. Detour route: n/a
SH90 - Waikoikoi to Tapanui. Flooding. Detour route: n/a

Another hammering of heavy rain will bring a further 15mm to Christchurch in fewer than four hours.

The worst of the downpour was expected to be over by about 6pm on Saturday and would add to the 74mm which had already fallen over the city since 3am on Friday, MetService forecaster Tuporo Marsters said.

When combined with an impending high tide, the state of emergency declared in Christchurch was no surprise, he said.

"The main rain band now is over Ashburton, Christchurch ... Timaru's only getting scattered light rain.

"The high tide for Lyttelton is at [3.15pm], so that in combination with the rain is not going to improve things."

Marsters said the worst was over for places south of Timaru as the rain band continued to slowly move north.

"However, all the rain that's fallen inland has still got to make its way [downstream]. That's why the streams are overflowing.

"That's why there's that bit of a lag effect. We get the heavy rains falling around the mountains and that's why the streams are still quite full."

Marsters said the poor weather would very slowly move north as the evening progressed, mostly lingering over the Christchurch and Rangiora areas.

By midnight on Saturday it would be north of Christchurch but would lose its energy as it made its way toward Kaikoura. It would then move east, leaving the Marlborough region unscathed.

In North Otago, heavy rain was also expected to have eased from Saturday morning. In the five hours from 9am to 2pm, 15 to 25mm of rain was expected to accumulate in addition to what had already fallen, especially about the hills and ranges.

In Dunedin, heavy rain had gradually eased on Saturday morning. Strong wind warnings had been lifted for Westland and Fiordland.

Christchurch's expected tally paled in comparison to other South Island towns, with one weather station north of Dunedin city experiencing 245mm since the poor weather started.


* Oamaru, 174mm
* Waitati, 169mm
* Darfield, 151mm
* Methven, 145mm
* Geraldine, 136mm
* Akaroa, 135mm
* Ashburton, 128mm
* Dunedin city, 127mm

 - Stuff

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