Nelson Tasman and Taranaki latest regions to declare emergency as ex-Cyclone Gita hits hard

Re-live 1 NEWS NOW's live updates as ex-tropical Cyclone Gita started to batter New Zealand.

Latest updates can be viewed here.

As Cyclone Gita hits the country, central New Zealand is experiencing heavy rain and high winds. Dozens of schools and some roads have already been closed on the West Coast and Nelson today.

STORY SO FAR:

  • 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 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 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 updates from earlier today can be viewed here.

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.

7.39pm: NIWA has some impressive rain stats from Kaikoura, the top rain spot from Cyclone Gita.

-194.4mm so far today: nearly four times the monthly normal.

-53.6mm between 4-5pm: the wettest hour on record & over a month's worth of rain in one hour.

-More rain today alone than Nov-Dec-Jan combined!

7.28pm: 

7.23pm: The wild weather hasn't been bad news for everyone.

Click here to see a Wellington fisherman proudly displaying his whopping kingfish catch today.

7.18pm: Massive swells on the West Coast today!

7.13pm: Selwyn District Council has declared a Civil Defence State of Emergency for the Selwyn district tonight.

Selwyn Civil Defence local controller Murray Washington says the state of emergency has been declared due to the Selwyn River potentially flooding overnight which may require evacuations of low-lying communities tomorrow morning.

The sustained heavy rain today is expected to continue and worsen at about 10pm this evening.

The state of emergency will assist Civil Defence authorities in evacuating at-risk areas if necessary.

Residents at the Upper and Lower Selwyn Huts are advised to be prepared to evacuate if necessary, Mr Washington says.

7.08pm: An update from Powerco outlines the sheer scale of the problems caused by Cyclone Gita in Taranaki.

By 5pm about 14,000 residents were without power in Taranaki and Powerco Network Operations Manager Phil Marsh said the buffeting winds were making conditions very difficult for contractors.

"Falling branches and trees were the main causes of the cuts," he said.

"We are doing our best to restore service but we will not put workers at risk in the high winds. Until the weather settles down we don't expect to make much headway in exposed areas such as Coastal Taranaki."

This might mean some customers are without power through the night, he said.

7.04pm:

6.59pm: Nelson and Tasman Civil Defence has released a statement outlining the increasing amount of weather related incidents in the region.

  • SH60 Riwaka to Takaka is closed due to a slip and fallen trees.
  • Areas are without power (approx 4000 people). Between Kina and Takaka, including Kaiteriteri. 
  • Localised flooding in Motueka, Takaka and Marahau.
  • Significant flooding in the Riwaka Plains area.

A number of evacuation centres have been set up these are, the Motueka Recreation Centre, the Salvation Army Hall (Rutherford Street), the Takaka Recreation Centre and the Outdoor Recreation Centre in Marahau.

6.35pm: Grey District has followed Buller and Christchurch in declaring a state of emergency.

Grey District Council says the move is a precaution at this stage as the predicted weather is showing the worst is still to come.

The council's messages include:

Nelson on edge as Cyclone Gita bears down on the battered region. Source: 1 NEWS

- Stay inside - do not travel unless absolutely necessary.
- Close windows, external and internal doors. Pull curtains and drapes over unprotected glass areas to prevent injury from shattered or flying glass. If the wind becomes destructive, stay away from doors and windows and shelter further inside the house.
- Treat any fallen power lines as live. If you see lines down or have no power, please phone Westpower on 0800 768 241 and report it.
- If you require sandbags the depot is open on Preston Road Greymouth (old Scrap Metal Yard) this is a fill your own service with bags and sand provided.
- Welfare centres are on standby ready to open if conditions worsen.

6.18pm: Westland District Council Emergency Operations Centre activated this morning at 11am.

State Highway Six is closed from Hokitika to Franz Josef, with an update due at 9 am tomorrow Morning.

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

SH6 Franz Josef to Haast is open but care is required by caravans, campervans, high sided vehicles and motorbikes as wind is strong especially around river valleys. The council says please avoid all travel unless it's extremely urgent.

Hokitika Airport is closed for tonight.

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. Gale force southeast winds are currently hitting South Westland especially Hari Hari and Whataroa. Rainfall totals are expected to be in the range of 90mm to 120mm.

6.01pm: Emergency services are going door to door evacuating homes in Hector and north Granity, two small coastal communities just north of Westport. 

Gita now poses a potential real threat to people's lives so residents will be forced to evacuate if they don't leave on their own. 

Police say it is too dangerous for them to stay and it will become more dangerous for those trying to help them. Free accomodation will be provided.

Wind and the high tide overnight (3am) are the primary concerns.

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

5.49pm: All schools and early learning centres in the Buller District and Grey District will be closed again tomorrow.

The Ministry of Education says today 90 schools and 98 early learning centres in Nelson, Marlborough, West Coast, Canterbury, Wellington and Taranaki regions closed, impacting more than 20,000 students and pre-schoolers.

The ministry is advising parents and whānau to keep in contact with schools/kura and early learning centres tomorrow following the severe weather that forced today's closures.

5.35pm: PowerCo is reporting 12,949 properties in Taranaki are without power due to the strong winds of Cyclone Gita.

5.30pm: Spark has made its wifi network free to anyone.

5.25pm: The NZ Transport Agency is advising motorists of additional road closures in the South Island and urging drivers to delay trips if possible until the severe weather has passed.

SH6 from Hokitika to Franz Joseph was closed at 4pm due to strong winds and is likely to remain closed overnight. 

SH6 from Westport to Rapahoe (north of Greymouth) was closed earlier today due to flooding and strong winds. The road is expected to remain closed overnight, with a further assessment to be made tomorrow morning. 

SH6 at the Gates of Haast is also reduced to a single lane, with traffic controls in place.

SH60 from Riwaka to Takaka, Tasman District, was also closed just after 4pm due to fallen trees across the highway, slips and flooding at the turnoff to Kaiteriteri. 

SH1 north and south of Kaikoura remains closed due to heavy rain and the risk of slips and rockfalls.  The highway will be reassessed in the morning.

Route 70, the inland road via Waiau remains open for road access to Kaikoura. While crews are aiming to keep it open as long as possible, 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.

5.14pm: Emergency services are preparing to evacuate residents from seafront properties in Hector and Granity, two small coastal communities just north of Westport. Police, Fire Service and Civil Defence are gathering there already to assess the best way to do that safely as strong winds intensify. 

5.10pm: A Network Tasman spokesperson has told 1 NEWS there are roughly 3000 power outages in the Tasman district, 2500 of them in Golden Bay.

A flooded reserve in Motueka as Cyclone Gita hits the region.
A flooded reserve in Motueka as Cyclone Gita hits the region. Source: Julie Hay

5.05pm: The Marlborough Sounds have had "serious rain" ahead of ex-Cyclone Gita's arrival.

4.46pm: MetService says the west of the country is now in a very strong northerly flow ahead of the centre of ex-Cyclone Gita. In Westport, winds are currently gusting over 90 km/h.

Powerco is reporting 4730 power cuts in Taranaki, the majority of them caused by strong winds.

4.40pm: Power is out in Takaka, Golden Bay. The full impact is yet to be confirmed by Network Tasman.

4.35pm: A state of emergency has been declared for the Buller District in response to Cyclone Gita.

The decision to declare was made primarily to protect lives and to give emergency services the powers they need to be able to evacuate residents if deemed necessary.

Mayor Garry Howard says: "The issue we have is that if the weather pattern happens as predicted the worst will hit in darkness. 

"Granity in particular has high seas predicted and along with high winds this is not a good situation for those in seafront properties".

Police and Emergency services are currently assessing if and when evacuations will happen

Ominous skies over Nelson as Cyclone Gita approaches.
Ominous skies over Nelson as Cyclone Gita approaches. Source: Jacqui Irwin

4.30pm: A dark and ominous sky has been captured by Jacqui Irwin over Nelson as Cyclone Gita approaches the region.

4.20pm: Fire and Emergency NZ have had three callouts to downed power lines and two to trees fallen onto roads in the New Plymouth area.

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.

Tree down in Richmond, Nelson.
Tree down in Richmond, Nelson. Source: 1 NEWS

"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.

The strong winds have begun to cause power outages and damage to properties as the cyclone moves in. Source: 1 NEWS

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

Just weeks after one major storm, West Coast residents are anxiously awaiting another. Source: 1 NEWS



How Finland solved its homeless crisis while numbers increase across Europe

In 2008 Finland made a significant change to their homeless policy, making it the only country in Europe where the number of homeless people has declined.

They achieved this by shutting down emergency shelters and temporary housing and instead began renovating these dwellings into apartments.

This was on top of permanent social housing they were building throughout the country under their Housing First programme.

It wasn’t an overnight success, it was a model Finland had been working on since the 1980s with charities, NGOs and volunteers.

It was the launch of a fully funded national programme a decade ago which saw the tide turn on homelessness.

“For us it means it’s always permanent housing that’s supposed to be proved for homeless persons – always permanent instead of temporary solutions,” Finland’s Housing First CEO Juha Kaakinen told 1 NEWS.

Mr Kaakinen says emergency shelters and hostels were failing to keep up with demand and were becoming an “obstacle” to solving homelessness.

“Well it’s obvious that when you are on the street or you are living in temporary accommodation to take care of things like employment issues, health and social issues it’s almost impossible,” he says.

“But a permanent home gives you a safe place where you don’t have to be afraid about what’s going to happen tomorrow, and you know if you can take care of the rent.”

In 2008, Helsinki alone had 500 bed places in emergency shelters, now 10 years later there is only one shelter with 52 beds.

Finland’s Housing First social housing stock for those who are on low incomes or in need of urgent housing makes up 13 per cent of their total housing stock.

Under their housing policy, every new housing area must be 20 per cent social housing.

“It’s quite a simple thing in a way, it makes common sense that you have to have a home like everyone else.”

The Ministry of Social Development says right now we can’t build permanent housing quick enough. Source: 1 NEWS

Not only is permanent housing supplied to those who can’t afford a roof over their head but wrap around support such as financial and debt counselling.

The number of homeless in Finland has dropped from 18,000 to 6500 people with 80 per cent living with friends and relatives while they wait for a home.

This means there is practically no street or rough sleepers in Finland, which has a total population of 5.4 million people.

The Housing First programme in New Zealand is funded by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) across many regions including Auckland.

However, this programme is just one of a myriad of programmes that include charities and community groups.

MSD’s Deputy Chief Executive for Housing Scott Gallacher acknowledges that more housing needs to be built to address the current crisis here.

“Our optimal outcome is to have far more supply of public housing, so people can have long-term stability. The stark reality is the context in which we find ourselves in that we just cannot bring on the degree of supply of long-term housing in the time required.

“The scale of what we’ve got of transitional housing at the moment will probably reduce over time and once we have a far stronger supply of long-term homes for people that is really the optimal outcome that we’re all trying to achieve,” says Mr Gallacher told 1 NEWS.

MSD also acknowledges it needs to provide greater support for those who are homeless to end chronic homelessness.

“It’s not just about the bricks and mortar, it’s not just about the house, it’s about what sort of support are we providing families and individuals to stabilise their lives and actually be able to sustain long-term homes.”

Mr Kaakinen says there is no other way around ending homelessness but to have government involvement.

Read more from Ryan Boswell's Homeless in New Zealand series here: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Finland is the only European country that has seen a decline in homelessness. Source: 1 NEWS

TODAY'S
TOP STORIES

Housing NZ board won't be sacked over meth contamination 'fiasco'

The Housing NZ board will not be sacked over the methamphetamine contamination “fiasco”, Housing Minister Phil Twyford has said.

Housing NZ issued an apology to all those who lost their homes as the organisation pursued a conservative policy around meth contamination in properties.

The Housing NZ board will not be sacked over the methamphetamine contamination “fiasco”, the housing minister said. Source: 1 NEWS

Chief executive Andrew McKenzie also apologised for the organisation’s zero tolerance policy around illegal activities, saying they had ignored the issues that had led to people being tenants of Housing NZ.

A report showed that around 800 tenants suffered through Housing NZ’s response to meth contamination.

“Housing NZ acknowledges that around 800 tenants suffered by either losing their tenancies, losing their possessions, being suspended from the public housing waiting list, negative effects on their credit ratings or, in the worst cases, being made homeless," Mr Twyford said.

“Housing NZ is committed to redressing the hardship these tenants faced. This will be done on a case by case basis and the organisation will look to reimburse costs tenants incurred, and make discretionary grants to cover expenses such as moving costs and furniture replacement.”

Phil Twyford says the Government is committed to improving the lives of renters in New Zealand.
Source: 1 NEWS

“They will also receive a formal apology from Housing NZ.

ONN 1 News at 6 promo image
For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

Mr Twyford said it was a failure of the previous government and they have already paid for it because “they are no longer ministers”.

“The approach to methamphetamine from 2013 by the government of the day was a moral and fiscal failure. Housing NZ had been instructed by then ministers to operate like a private sector landlord. This led to the wellbeing of tenants being ignored.

“Even as evidence grew that the meth standard was too low, and ministers acknowledged it wasn’t ‘fit for purpose’, the former government continued to demonise its tenants. At any time they could have called for independent advice. Our Government is choosing to do the right thing.”

About 800 tenants will receive compensation between $2,500 to $3,000. Source: 1 NEWS

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FEATURED STORIES

Vice Chancellor Jan Thomas misled students, says Massey University Students' Association president

Massey University Vice Chancellor Jan Thomas misled students over the cancellation of the Don Brash speaking event and the student association has no confidence in her ability to do the job.

Student association president Ngahuia Kirton says her biggest concern to come out of the issue was threats to restrict funding to the association.

"As a whole, students seem to have been misled and I don’t think that their views were properly taken into consideration by the senior leadership team," she told TVNZ1’s Breakfast.

"MUSA’s position is very clear, we have no confidence in the vice chancellor’s ability to discharge her duties, so I would hope that the university council would take that into consideration," she said.

Documents obtained yesterday under the Official Information Act contain correspondence to and from Ms Thomas in the run-up to the cancellation.

In one email on 9 July, the vice-chancellor said she did not want a "te tiriti led university to be seen to be endorsing racist behaviours".

A day later, she emailed to say she would like to know the options for banning the politics club from holding events on campus.

She said the "racist behaviour of Dr Brash - given te reo is an official language of NZ and we are a tiriti-led university - can't be ignored".

Ms Kirton said the vice chancellor’s concerns that Mr Brash’s views didn’t align with the values of the university were valid but students were still misled.

"I think her concerns were more around the fact that Massey University is a teriti-led and her views that Don Brash’s views didn’t align with that is completely valid."

"I’m more concerned about the way she handled the communication and the events that happened afterwards."

"Personally, I don’t agree with Don Brash’s views, and I think many people at the student association also do not agree with them, however I do think university as the critic and conscience of society is a great place to have those healthy debates and these difficult conversations."

Ms Kirton says her biggest concern to come out of the issue was threats to restrict funding to the association.

"The cancellation of the Don Brash events aside, the student association’s biggest concern is actually the threats to restrict funding to student associations to manage backlash."

President Ngahuia Kirton says the student association has no confidence in Jan Thomas’s ability to perform her duties. Source: Breakfast


Refugee quota increase a proud moment, Red Cross says, but now it's time to prepare

Jacinda Ardern's announcement yesterday that we will increase our yearly refugee intake to 1500 by 2020 was a proud moment for New Zealand, says Red Cross official Rachel O'Conner.

But there are some things we will have to do as a nation to prepare for the increase, which will result in New Zealand having doubled its intake in less than five years, she told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning.

"We'll need people to respond, we're going to need people to volunteer, to donate items," she said. "But a lot of it is about...having welcoming communities."

Resettlement, she explained, is difficult - away from family and friends, without work and often having to learn a new language.

"Kiwis have this value of showing care and compassion, and that is what helps build that sense of belonging," said Ms O'Conner, who serves as national migration programmes manager for the humanitarian organisation.

That's 500 extra people who'll be making New Zealand home annually. Source: 1 NEWS

Under the Prime Minister's plan, six new resettlement communities will be established so that existing ones in New Zealand aren't over-burdened. The towns, however, haven't yet been chosen.

"We're going to be looking for councils and community groups to put up their hands and say, 'Yup, we want to be one of the new six'," Ms O'Conner said.

Ms O'Conner described yesterday's announcement as "a great start". But with 1.4 million people in desperate need of resettlement, "we're seeing unprecedented needs globally at the moment", she added, explaining that the Government also needs to take another good look at foreign aid and peace building activities.

Even after yesterday's announcement, New Zealand is far from being a leader in terms of refugee intake numbers.

PM Jacinda Ardern made the announcement today. Source: 1 NEWS

"But we are leaders in the terms of the quality of resettlement that we provide," she said, telling the story of a mum who had carried her disabled teen son on her back for his entire life because they didn't have access to health care in their previous country.

After arriving in Auckland, the boy was given a wheelchair and it changed both of their lives, O'Conner said.

"She kept saying, 'I can't believe I don't have to carry him anymore'," she recalled.

Jacinda Ardern’s announcement yesterday means six new settlement locations will be in the works, Rachel O’Conner told Breakfast. Source: Breakfast