Around 40 people will be sleeping in buses tonight, with Chinese tourists trapped south of Hokitika

Relive events as they unfolded  across the country as ex-tropical Cyclone Gita battered New Zealand today.

STORY SO FAR:

  • Some people have left their homes near Christchurch's flooded Heathcote River.
  • More than 20,000 students and pre-schoolers have been affected by school and early learning centre closures.
  • Power outages have hit residents in Taranaki and Tasman districts, with over 23,000 people without power.
  • Parts of state highways are closed on the West Coast and the Kaikoura region.
  • Canterbury and the Marlborough Sounds are getting significant rainfall.
  • Buller, Selwyn District, Grey District, Westland, Taranaki, Nelson Tasman and Christchurch have all declared a state of emergency.
  • The centre of Cyclone Gita is barreling towards the West Coast and upper tip of the South Island.
  • Air NZ cancelled all services into and out of Wellington from 2.45pm today through until midnight.
  • Low-lying Christchurch residents have been told to prepare to evacuate due to heavy rain.
  • Police have warned motorists to be aware of high winds and debris on the roads and drive with care.
  • Around 40 people will be sleeping in buses tonight, with Chinese tourists trapped south of Hokitika

Live updates from earlier today can be viewed here.

11.30pm: That concludes our live coverage of this weather event for tonight. Our live coverage will resume at 5.30am tomorrow. Until then, good night.

11.15pm: Okay, here is the MetService's last weather watch for today:

"Issued by MetService at 10:08pm Tuesday 20-Feb-2018.

"Severe gales and heavy rain across central New Zealand should ease Wednesday as Cyclone Gita departs

"Cyclone Gita is forecast to track southeastwards across the upper South Island tonight (Tuesday), then to move away to the southeast on Wednesday. The high-impact severe weather across central New Zealand should ease as Gita moves away on Wednesday.

"This Watch is for the possibility of strong northwesterly winds approaching severe gale for a time in exposed parts of the North Island from Waikato south of Hamilton to Taupo, across to Bay of Plenty, including Gisborne and Hawkes Bay until early Wednesday morning. In addition, southeasterly winds may rising to severe gale for a time in Fiordland until around dawn Wednesday.

"People are advised to keep up to date with the latest forecasts as case parts of the Watch are upgraded to a full warning. Please see http://www.metservice.com/warnings/tropical-cyclone-activity for more detail on Cyclone Gita, including the latest track map.

"Note, the heavy rain watches for Mount Taranaki, Horowhenua, the Tararua Range and Wairarapa are now lifted.

"Also, the strong wind watches are also lifted for Northland, Auckland including Great Barrier Island, Coromandel Peninsula and Waikato from Hamilton northwards."

Strong Wind Watch

Area: Waikato south of Hamilton, Waitomo, Taumarunui, Bay Of Plenty, Rotorua, Taupo, Gisborne and Hawkes Bay
Valid: 6 hours from 10:00pm Tuesday to 4:00am Wednesday
Forecast: Northerly winds may rise to severe gale in exposed places for a time until early Wednesday morning.

Area: Fiordland
Valid: 8 hours from 10:00pm Tuesday to 6:00am Wednesday
Forecast: Southeasterlies may rise to severe gale in exposed places for a time until around dawn Wednesday.

Watches no longer in force

Heavy rain watch lifted for: Mt Taranaki.: Periods of heavy rain about Mt Taranaki. Totals may reach short term warning criteria.

Heavy rain watch lifted for: Horowhenua, the Tararua Range and Wairarapa: The threat of warning amounts of rain has now passed and the watch is lifted.

Strong wind watch lifted for: Northland, Auckland including Great Barrier Island, Coromandel Peninsula and Waikato from Hamilton northwards: The threat of severe gale northwesterlies has now passed and the watch is lifted.

10.56pm: 1 NEWS' reporters have been battling Gita today, along with much of the North and South Islands. Stay safe folks.

10.47pm: The NZTA is asking people to delay non-essential driving in the lower North Island, with heavy rain and high winds expected throughout the night.

Current regional closures as at 9pm:

Taranaki – sections of State Highway 3 Urenui to Waitara are closed for tree removal.

Manawatu – sections of State Highway 54 Cheltenham to Hunterville is closed due to strong winds.

10.31pm: This interactive map shows how Gita has broken off into two seperate storms...

10.24pm: A Westland Civil Defence Spokesperson has confirmed to 1 NEWS that roughly 40 people will be sleeping in buses tonight.

Two buses of 21 Chinese tourists are stuck in Wharatoa, south of Hokitika.

Thirty tourists are in welfare centres in Haast and locals are also billeting people.

Twenty-five tourists will be sleeping in the Whataroa Community hall.

People watching the waves got more than they bargained for and the city's famous Len Lye Wind Wand leaned dramatically in the gale. Source: 1 NEWS

10.19pm: Hard work in New Plymouth this afternoon...

10.15pm: This from 1 NEWS' Katlin Ruddock...

Darryl and Julie Thomas have never seen anything like this flooding at their property in 41 years living there. Source: 1 NEWS

10.05pm: "I've never seen anything like it": Spare a thought tonight for Darryl and Julie Thomas doing it very, very tough in Riwaka, near Motueka. Darryl's gone fishing, from the boat - in his garage. But they're in good spirits. This is there story.

9.44pm: MetService reports the most rain recorded was in Kaikoura ranges from 2am today at 255.5mm. 

The largest recorded wave was at Port Taranaki – 6.7 metres.

Winds are forecast to ease by tomorrow morning, rain is forecast to ease or clear for everyone by midday tomorrow.

9.37pm: MetService reports the highest wind gust recorded in the last 24 hours to 8pm was in Hawera, South Taranaki – northwest 130km/h.

Westport also hit 118km/h.

Most rain recorded in Kaikoura ranges from 2am today at 255.5mm. Rain gauges continuing to go increase from Kapiti southwards.

Largest wave at Port Taranaki – 6.7 metres.

9.22pm: Christchurch City Council says the Dudley Creek bypass is in operation and is helping to divert floodwaters away from Flockton properties.  Flockton houses have been prone to flooding in the past.

Meanwhile, Christchurch's wastewater system is coming under pressure due to infiltration and inflow from the rain during the storm. The  council is asking residents to delay washing the dishes or clothes until Wednesday evening or Thursday morning and if you have to shower, keep it short.

Some people have decided to evacuate their homes near the Heathcote River where roads are flooded.

Christchurch remains under a state of emergency, declared by Mayor Lianne Dalziel this afternoon due to the impact of the ex-cyclone.

8.57pm: Evidence of the heavy rainfall which has hit Motueka today!

8.53pm: Click here for A more in-depth look at the situation in the Nelson Tasman region as flooding sets in.

8.50pm: 

8.22pm: 1 NEWS reporter Kate Nicol-Williams says the Les Mills Extreme gym in Wellington is shutting its door early tonight and evacuating gym goers due to water leaking through the roof.

A staff member said there's damage to the roof foundations on an upper level.

8.19pm: 1 NEWS reporter Kaitlin Ruddock has just made a live report from a flooded backyard in Riwaka.

Click here to watch her report of the latest situation in Nelson Tasman.

8.10pm: Taranaki has now also declared a state of emergency, with nearly 23,000 properties without power in the region.

The pipeline from the New Plymouth water treatment station to the Mangorei Reservoir has been ruptured by a falling tree.

Residents in eastern parts of New Plymouth District – New Plymouth, Bell Block, Waitara, Tikorangi, Onaero and Urenui – are urged to conserve water and use only the bare minimum.

Fallen trees and traffic accidents are disrupting traffic flows on number of highways and local roads.

8.03pm: A warning to motorists, and some updated road closures has just been released by the NZTA.

The NZ Transport Agency advises drivers of additional road closures in the South Island and urges people to delay trips until the severe weather has passed.

High winds mean that drivers of high-sided vehicles, towing caravans or driving campervans should stay put, well out of the wind.

• SH73 (West Coast side of Arthurs Pass/Otira to Christchurch) Jacksons to Kumara Junction – closed due to strong winds and falling trees across highway.
• SH6 Hokitika to the Haast Pass/Makarora – closed due to strong winds and falling trees. Strong winds through the Whataroa Valley, trees down.
• Route 70, inland road, to Kaikoura via Waiau and Mt Lyford – closed with the Mason River rising rapidly at the Whalesback slip area.

Kaikoura is effectively isolated until this road or SH1 reopens.

7.55pm: Nelson Tasman has become the sixth region to declare a state of emergency today due to Cyclone Gita.

Following significant rainfall in the Takaka catchment, further flooding is expected to occur in the region, including Takaka township.

Water volumes are uncertain but expect flooding to occur at least in the main street of Takaka over the next few hours.

Takaka residents are asked to be aware, and consider self-evacuating if you feel your safety could be at risk.

A Civil Defence Centre has been opened at Takaka Recreation Centre.

7.46pm: A release from the Westland District Council Emergency Operations Centre as they declare a State of Emergency in the Westland District.

Severe wind gusts overnight and danger to motorists was the reason given for the declaration.

State Highway 6 Hokitika to Makaroara Closed. update at 9 am tomorrow morning.

State Highway 73 Jacksons to Kumara Junction Closed. Update 9am tomorrow morning.

A reception centre has been set up in the Franz Josef medical centre to assist tourists with accommodation for the evening.

There are reports of trees down and damage to buildings.

Hokitika Airport is closed for tonight, please check the Air New Zealand website for flight details tomorrow morning.

Power is currently intermittent so please treat all power lines as live at all times.

The storm is expected to intensity from 6pm and last for at least 12 hours with the wind intensity significant from 4pm through to 10pm.



Auckland lawyer sentenced for helping human trafficker

They were promised high wages, free food and accommodation, but instead they were paid just a fraction of what they were promised and forced to live in squalid, cramped conditions.

Today, the lawyer who helped a human trafficker fool Immigration New Zealand was sentenced to 10 months home detention with six months post release conditions and $1575 in reparations to the workers.

In 2014, Mohammed Idris Hanif provided legal services to Faroz Ali, who was found guilty of human trafficking in 2016 - the first conviction of its kind in New Zealand.

Hanif gave false and misleading visitor visa applications on behalf of the Fijian workers, so that the workers Ali had trafficked into New Zealand could continue working in his gib-fixing business.

Hanif provided applications on five separate occasions that stated the Fijian workers were genuine tourists, who were in New Zealand to sight-see and visit friends and family, which was false.

Hanif was used to appearing at the lawyers' benches of Manukau District Court but today he was in the dock.

He maintains his innocence and applied for a discharge without conviction, saying the charges were trivial.

The application was opposed by Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment lawyer Shona Carr said Hanif provided false information to authorities on who and who should not be allowed in New Zealand.

She said the vicitms of the offending - poor workers from Fiji - had spent so much on getting to New Zealand that they could not pull out of the scam because they had to try and recover the money they had borrowed from friends and relatives.

"The victims were embarrassed and ashamed and left unable to repay their debt."

She said it would not be appropriate to give Hanif a discharge without conviction when he maintained his innocence.

Judge Gregory Hikaka said the matter was serious as it involved misleading Government officials who relied on lawyers to be honest.

The judge said the workers spent their time in New Zealand in squalid conditions and returned to Fiji in debt to friends and family.

Hanif has been a lawyer since 1987 but now his practising certificate has expired but the Law Society are aware of the charges and he still faces disciplinary action.

He's also been ordered to pay $1575 dollars in reparation to the workers.

Ali, the man who promised the migrants everything, only to exploit them was found guilty of bringing in vulnerable Fijian workers and exploiting them in 2016.

Justice Heath sentenced Ali to nine-and-a-half years in prison for 57 charges, including people trafficking, which he described as an "abhorrent" crime.

Ali headed an organisation that ran advertisements in a Fijian newspaper, promising people orchard and construction work in New Zealand at seven or eight times their pay.

They were charged exorbitant fees to travel to New Zealand, but when they arrived they were forced to sleep on the floor and had rent and food costs deducted from their pay.

Suliana Vetanivula was one of the workers, and her victim impact statement was read by Crown prosecutor Luke Clancy at Ali's sentencing.

"When I go out I feel ashamed to see the people I owe in my village. When I came to them for help, they were ready to help me and in return I didn't do my part. When I returned to the village I felt like I was not wanted anymore, like everybody sees me as a failure.

"It was like I stole money from them because they know that whoever goes to Australia or New Zealand for work, they come back with a lot of money."

Mr Clancy said Ali had expressed no remorse whatsoever and owed the workers $128,000 in fees and outstanding wages. He said that figure did not include the profit Ali made from their labour.

Ali's lawyer, Peter Broad, said his client had no other money available and was facing bankruptcy after being pursued by the Inland Revenue Department for a $126,000 tax bill.

Justice Heath said some of the workers were sent to the Bay of Plenty for orchard work, where the accommodation was shamefully poor.

"Three married women and one married man were taken to a house near Pyes Pa and told they would be staying in the basement with other people. There was no bedding to speak of and only one mattress was available. This in July 2014, in the midst of a New Zealand winter. That must have been extremely cold for people travelling from the tropical warmth of Fiji."

In sentencing Ali, the judge ordered him to pay reparation of $28,000 to refund the fees the workers paid.

"People trafficking is an abhorrent crime. It is a crime against human dignity. It undermines the respect that all of us should have for the human rights and the autonomy of individual people. Such conduct degrades human life. It is a crime that should be condemned in the strongest possible terms."

By Edward Gay

rnz.co.nz

Mohammed Idris Hanif
Mohammed Idris Hanif Source: rnz.co.nz

TODAY'S
TOP STORIES

Detector dogs in prisons sniff out nearly one synthetic cannabis sample a week

A small group of specially trained detector dogs are sniffing out synthetic drugs in New Zealand’s prisons. 

Five dogs have been in action since March, searching for ever-changing psychoactive substances smuggled into prisons. 

Since then, the dogs have retrieved 33 samples of synthetic cannabis, nearly one a week. But that's nowhere near as high as other drugs that are found. 

But the Ministry of Corrections said it's front-footing potential prison deaths from synthetics after inmate fatalities overseas.

"It is on our streets, it is affecting our communities, so as a team the dog handlers felt that they wanted to front foot this emerging threat," Manager Specialist Search Jay Mills told 1 NEWS.

"We have a duty of care to our prisoners, our staff and our prisoners ensuring we keep our site safe."

It’s something Minister of Corrections Kelvin Davis supports.

"We know that psychoactive substances are out in the streets, in our communities and we would be naive to think people aren't trying to get them into our prisons," Mr Davis said. 

Corrections is working with the Ministry of Health, and Environmental Science and Research (ESR) to improve the scope of ingredients they can detect. 

"NPS (New Psychoactive Substances) is extremely difficult to keep on top of, in terms of the chemical makeup of the drug," Mr Mills said. 

It’s a tough job for both the dog, and trainers.

"We match it up to what we're searching for currently and if we see any differences or irregularities with ingredients it means we can go back to our training room and load our dogs with that odour. So we are constantly staying ahead of what's out there today," dog trainer Ricky Trevithick said. 

Training for the five dogs will be on-going, with ingredients constantly changing and new batches constantly coming onto the drug market.

1 NEWS reporter Emily Cooper has the exclusive details. Source: 1 NEWS

TODAY'S
FEATURED STORIES

Accused Kiwi conman's partner arrested in Australia on multiple charges including indecent assault

The partner of a New Zealand man who was deported from Australia over two years ago after the couple arrived in Sydney on a stolen yacht has herself now been arrested in Australia on multiple charges including supplying ecstasy to a 15-year-old girl and indecently assaulting her.

Christchurch Police have told TVNZ tonight that Australian Federal Police, acting on New Zealand-endorsed extradition warrants, arrested Simone Smith, AKA Simone Wright, in New South Wales on Tuesday this week.

She was arrested on charges of supplying a girl aged 15 with the class B drug ecstasy, the indecent assault of the same girl, multiple charges of fraud and theft of a yacht, Detective Craig Farrant of Christchurch Police said. 

She has been remanded in custody to reappear in court in Australia on September 28.  

Her partner, Paul James Bennett, was arrested in Australia when the couple arrived in Sydney on a stolen yacht from New Zealand.

Bennett was deported back to New Zealand on May 13, 2016. He was taken into custody at Christchurch Airport and taken to court next day on 48 charges stretching back to 2008.  

These were 28 charges of dishonestly using documents or obtaining funds, 10 of forgery, five of theft, three of supplying a girl aged 15 with the class B drug ecstasy, and two of indecently assaulting the same girl. 

The total involved in the alleged dishonesty offending is $567,000 and Bennett's case is currently proceeding before the court.

Bennett had been on the run until being arrested aboard a yacht moored on the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney in February 2016 .

The yacht had been stolen from the Bay of Islands the previous year.

Simone Wright and Paul James Bennett..


Temporary relocation of Auckland City Mission ruffles some neighbours' feathers

Auckland City Mission is moving temporarily while the original site used since 1980 is being upgraded.

"Spider" has been homeless since the early 1980s.

"It’s virtually my second home really, I’ve been here since the early 80s and I’ve seen it all."

The temporary location is just 700m away on Union Street and will be based there for the next two years while its Hobson Street premises undergoes a makeover.

The revamped facility will have 80 secure apartments and a 30 bed detox centre.

"Spider" says, "It has been a long time coming, very much so, it is about time we had a change."

The temporary location will continue to offer a variety of services and the mission is promising better care.

"We want to give people good space to eat," says the mission's CEO Chris Farrelly.

"Kai is not just about filling the belly, it's about a place of engagement," she says.

1 NEWS spoke to some parents and neighbours who have reservations about the mission moving to Union Street, because the crossing that children use to get to and from school sits right outside the mission's front door.

"Sometimes they do you know drugs and smokes, so I’m not really comfortable," person said.

Mr Farrelly says, "First and foremost we’ve listened and we really hear those concerns so we will have more staff at certain time of the day as an example on the streets when there are children on the streets."

The City Mission will host it's final dinner at Hobson Street tonight, before creating a new community in central Auckland tomorrow.

It’s moving temporarily while the original premises get an upgrade. Source: 1 NEWS