Ex-Cyclone Gita 'a few hours' from making landfall but both islands being battered

Follow 1 NEWS NOW's live updates as ex-tropical Cyclone Gita starts to batter New Zealand

As Cyclone Gita approaches New Zealand central New Zealand is bracing for heavy rain and high winds. Dozens of schools have already been closed on the West Coast and Nelson today.

STORY SO FAR:

  • Parts of state highways are closed on the West Coast and the Kaikoura region
  • Canterbury and the Marlborough Sounds are getting significant rainfall
  • Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel has declared a State of Emergency for the city council's area.
  • The centre of Cyclone Gita is barreling towards the West Coast and upper tip of the South Island.
  • Air NZ has 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 self-evacuate due to heavy rain.
  • Police have warned motorists to be aware of high winds and debris on the roads and drive with care.

Live update from earlier today can be viewed here.

4.33pm: Power is out in Takaka, Golden Bay. The full impact is yet to be confirmed by Network Tasman.

4.30pm: Sounds Air say as a precaution they have cancelled flights today out of Wellington that go to Nelson and Westport. Their flights from Blenheim and Taupo are still going. 

Earlier, Air New Zealand cancelled all services into and out of Wellington from 2.45pm today until midnight and said this may have a flow-on effect to other services.

Air NZ also cancelled services into and out of Hokitika, Nelson, New Plymouth and Queenstown until the end of the day.

4.20pm: Fire and Emergency NZ have had three callouts to downed powelines and two to trees fallen onto roads in the New Plymouth District. The calls have been to several areas including Waitara, Oakura, Rahotu and Kaimiro. New Plymouth District Council says it's keeping an eye on the weather situation and liaising with Civil Defence. 

4.10pm: The storm has brought a summer dusting of snow to The Remarkables in Queenstown. 

'We've got a bit of snow coming in from the south-southeast," said Ross from The Remarkables.

"We hope everyone further north is safe with that rain. And of course, for us, this is just a taste that winter is on the way."

3.55pm: Christchurch City Council, which declared a State of Emergency this afternoon, is urging people in rural areas to stay off the road, particularly after dark. It says the storm could cause flooding, slips and fallen trees on Banks Peninsula. Farmers should move stock from low lying areas and creeks prone to flooding. 

People in low-lying areas should move valuable possessions up high, and move cars to higher ground.

"This is an unpredictable weather event. We want people to be as prepared as they can be," said Mayor Lianne Dalziel.

Anyone concerned should call the Customer Contact Centre on 03 941 8999 or 0800 800 169.

3.37pm: NZTA roads update:

State Highway Six is closed from Westport to Rapahoe, north of Greymouth, due to flooding and strong winds. The road is expected to remain closed overnight, with a further assessment to be made tomorrow morning. A detour route is available via SH69 and SH7 (Reefton and Inangahua), but drivers are urged to delay travel if possible until the heavy rain and strong winds affecting the area have passed. 

SH1 north and south of Kaikoura remains closed due to heavy rain and the risk of slips and rockfalls. Route 70, the inland road via Waiau remains open for road access to Kaikoura. Drivers are urged to delay all but essential trips in the area until the severe weather has passed. 

All drivers travelling from Picton to Christchurch are advised to take the Lewis Pass route via Waipara and St Arnaud.

SH6 Rocks Road in Nelson remains open, and is being monitored closely.

3.20pm: MetService says a trough is spreading a narrow band showers over the North Island at the moment. Heavy rain is continuing over the South Island. Cyclone Gita is a few hours away from making landfall, the forecaster says. 

3.10pm: The Sounds Retreat has tweeted that 70mm of rain from Cyclone Gita has been recorded in the Marlborough Sounds. And MetService reports Canterbury is clocking up the rainfall now, with many locations approaching 50mm. Timaru has had 48mm, Cheviot 50mm and Christchurch itself 20mm so far.

2.55pm: Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel has declared a State of Emergency for Christchurch City, which includes Banks Peninsula, due to the impacts of ex-tropical Cyclone Gita.

Latest forecasts show the region is set for heavy rain and high winds, with potentially serious impacts. Banks Peninsula is expected to bear the brunt of the storm.

The declaration highlights the severity of the potential impacts of the weather, and gives people early warning to prepare.

"The full impact of the storm will be felt overnight and tomorrow morning. We are expecting homes to be flooded. If you are in a flood-prone area, particularly if your home was flooded, or close to flooding, in the July storm last year, you should consider evacuation before the worst of the storm hits tonight," Ms Dalziel says.

"We think it’s better people make preparations while it is still light, and ahead of road closures, to allow them to get out if they wish."

Part of Clarendon Terrace has been closed already, and the council expects further streets to close over the course of the afternoon and evening. These will not reopen until the risk of flooding has gone.

2:43pm: Travel insurance provider Allianz Worldwide Partners says if you are currently travelling and your transport is delayed or cancelled or your accommodation is affected due to Cyclone Gita you may be able to claim for additional travel, accommodation and meal expenses.

If you haven't yet departed and your pre-booked travel arrangements are cancelled, delayed or rescheduled by your travel provider as a result of the cyclone you may be able to make a claim for cancellation or rearrangement of your journey. Contact your travel agent or provider regarding the best option in altering your trip.

2.25pm: SH6 is closed between Westport and Greymouth because of strong winds and surface flooding. NZTA says it'll provide another update on the road at 9am tomorrow.

2.10pm: Greymouth Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said the winds are starting to move in now, but the 150km/h winds have not yet arrived.

2.05pm: 

According to MetService meteorologist Ciaran Doolin, Cyclone Gita will split into two systems as it crosses the Souther Alps tonight.

"It is technically splitting into two low pressure centres as it crosses the South Island today," he said.

The bulk of the system would push across the country into Canterbury after the split.

"This is the main system, which will mainly be affecting the east coast tomorrow. It will bring very strong southwest winds and heavy rain, the heaviest rain being overnight tonight," he said.

The lesser system would form over Westland and move north, bringing rain to the upper South Island.

1.47pm:

Click here to view the latest video update from the MetService about Cyclone Gita on Facebook.

1.42pm:

The latest update from the MetService has heavy rain warnings in place for Wellington and the Kapiti Coast until 2pm today.

Nelson and Buller will be in the firing line later with a heavy rain warning up until 9pm tonight.

Canterbury and North Otago have a heavy rain warning in place all the way until 11am tomorrow.

There is even a Road Snow Warning in place for the Crown Range Road tonight.

1.32pm: 

Police are reminding the public to take care as Cyclone Gita crosses the country today, particularly on the roads.

Motorists in affected areas are urged to drive to the conditions.

If you must travel, allow more time for your journey as you’ll need to reduce your speed and increase following distances.

People should also be aware of high winds and possible debris on the road.

Motorists are encouraged to check road updates from NZTA prior to travel.

Police districts will continue to monitor the weather situation and are ready to assist Civil Defence and other agencies should there be the need.

1.25pm: 

Time Saver Traffic are reporting extensive flooding on Auckland's Tamaki Drive as the high winds edge closer.

1.15pm:

Westland District Council advises its Emergency Operations Centre has been activated and will remain fully staffed for the duration of the event.

A meeting was held at midday today with all relevant EOC staff, emergency services and support agencies.

A further update will be held at 4 pm.

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

Residents are urged to prepare for gale force Southeast winds (up to 150km/per/hour) particularly South Westland.

These winds can be very damaging and all precautions should be taken to secure loose iron and awnings etc. and limit any travel on roads from 1pm this afternoon.
 

12:49pm

Marlborough Civil Defence warns there is local road flooding in some parts of the region. State Highway 1 is closed at Clarence.

It is advised Marlborough residents should restrict their travel today if possible, as road conditions are poor. 

Check Marlborough District Council's site for alerts on weather conditions

12:42pm

Christchurch City Council has advised people living in low-lying areas whose homes have flooded in the past should be prepared to self-evacuate this afternoon.

If there is an evacuation, the Council will open up Pioneer Stadium for people leaving their homes. It is advised, for flood-prone streets, a decision be made in advance whether to leave before the water gets too high.

12:39pm

Higgins employees have been out delivering sand to Nelson residents for free in an effort to prepare for possible flooding this afternoon when Gita hits.

Bevan Muollo said Nelson is a "tightknit" town and Higgins had put out an offer on Facebook earlier today for the deliveries, which have been eagerly accepted by many in low-lying areas.

12:31pm

Nelson-Tasman Civil Defence is advising residents in low-lying coastal areas should consider staying with family and friends tonight.

12:10pm

11.57am

11.54am

KiwiRail’s TranzAlpine service has been cancelled for Tuesday and Wednesday due to the severe weather from Cyclone Gita.

The cancellation of the Great Journeys of New Zealand service will affect 1416 passengers.

11.51am

11.48am

MetService updates: HEAVY RAIN WATCH

- Mt Taranaki from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm Tuesday.
- Horowhenua, the Tararua Range and Wairarapa from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm Tuesday.
- Area: Dunedin from 11:00 am Tuesday to 11:00 am Wednesday.

STRONG WIND WATCH

-Northland, Auckland including Great Barrier Island, Coromandel Peninsula, Waikato, Waitomo, Taumarunui and Taupo from 1:00 pm to 7:00 pm Tuesday.
- Bay Of Plenty, Gisborne and Hawkes Bay from 6:00 pm Tuesday to 2:00 am Wednesday.
- Fiordland from 3:00 pm Tuesday to 6:00 am Wednesday.

11.40am

Air NZ has cancelled all services into and out of Wellington from 2.45pm today through until midnight.

The airline is also cancelling services into and out of the following ports until the end of the day –
• Hokitika
• Nelson (from midday onwards)
• New Plymouth (from 11.00am onwards)
• Queenstown

Check the Air NZ website for updates on flight schedules. 

11.32am

Christchurch City Council expects flooding at low points and around low-lying river areas, with streets around these areas expected to be closed later today.

There is also a risk that low-lying homes along the Heathcote River could flood.

Wind gusts could reach 90kmh in Christchurch City, and 120kmh plus on Banks Peninsula.

At this stage, the Council is not expecting any inundation in Southshore, particularly with temporary stopbanks in place.

Heavy rainfall is forecast for just before the high tide tonight, due in Sumner at 9pm and the Heathcote River at 10pm.

11:27am:

MetService has updated that the heavy rain Watches for Christchurch, Banks Peninsula and North Otago have been upgraded to full Warnings. 

11.16am

Severe weather warning updates from MetService:

HEAVY RAIN WARNINGS

- Nelson and Buller from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm Tuesday.
- Marlborough including the Kaikoura Coast from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm Tuesday.
- Wellington and Kapiti Coast from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm Tuesday.
- Canterbury including Christchurch and the Banks Peninsula, and the ranges of Westland from 11:00 pm Tuesday to 11:00 am Wednesday.
- North Otago from 1:00 pm Tuesday to 11:00 am Wednesday.

STRONG WIND WARNING

- Taranaki, Taihape, Whanganui from 3:00 pm Tuesday to 1:00 am Wednesday.
- Manawatu, Kapiti-Horowhenua, Wellington and Wairarapa including the Tararua District from 6:00 pm Tuesday to 6:00 am Wednesday.
- Nelson and Buller from 2:00 pm to 10:00 pm Tuesday.
- Marlborough including the Kaikoura Coast from 3:00 pm Tuesday to 3:00 am Wednesday.
- Westland and the Canterbury High Country near the Alps from 12:00 pm to 11:00 pm Tuesday.
- Canterbury from Banks Peninsula northwards from 7:00 pm Tuesday to 3:00 pm Wednesday.

11.11am

Christchurch City Council says the latest forecast shows the city may receive up to 80mm of rain in the next 24 hours.

But the council also clarifies, the forecast is rapidly changing because of the "dynamic nature of the ex-tropical cyclone".

Banks Peninsula may receive significant rainfall of 100mm to 150mm in the next 24 hours. Heavy rainfall is expected between 4pm and 5pm today, through until 2am tomorrow.

11:07am

11.05am

Timaru District Council has activated its emergency operations centre at a low level to monitor and respond to any issues arising from Cyclone Gita. 

11:04am

11:00am

Nelson City Council road closure update:

Manuka Street ford is closed
Hathaway Terrace Carpark is closed
Whakatū Carpark Gloucester Street may flood. Park at your own risk.
SH6 Rocks Road in Nelson remains open and is being monitored closely.

- All Nelson City Council parks and reserves with large trees will be closed from 12pm today due to the possible risk of tree fall in the high winds.

10:52am

The Department of Conservation is warning the risk of floods, landslides and falling branches on conservation areas is high, and it is advised people don't venture outdoors until their weather warnings are liftedy today - which can be viewed here.

10:48am

If you're flying in the South Island, or lower North Island, today keep up to date with the status of your flight - disruptions are expected.

10:46am

Kaikoura had received the most rainfall across the country today by 9am this morning - 39mm.

State Highway 1 north of Kaikoura remains closed due to the poor weather conditions, the NZTA says. Kaikoura is still accessible using Inland Route 70 and Lewis Pass can be used for Picton.

10.40am

10.30am

Civil Defence Minister Kris Faafoi is urging people in areas affected by the weather to expect power outages and possibly road closure

He says the government will step in if needed.

To view live updates prior to 10:30am click here.

Greymouth Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said the winds are starting to move in now and residents should prepare. Source: 1 NEWS


Topics



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