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



Furore erupts after young kids wearing temporary moko told they couldn't perform at Christchurch Cultural Festival

A furore has erupted after young children wearing temporary moko were told they couldn't perform in the Christchurch Cultural Festival last week.

The festival decided to ban moko last year, following complaints about incorrect use.

The story got attention when a teacher from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Whanau Tahi School made an emotional statement on social media about three children being told to take their moko off at the festival.

"The young boy, who was the original boy that had a moko on his face, he was our leader, it was him that was going to be stood down, told he couldn’t perform, the other two girls were to fix it," the teacher said in a Facebook video.

In 2016 children were allowed to perform with temporary moko, but last year the rules changed and schools signed an agreement that children wouldn't wear the facial tattoos.

Kapa haka leaders have told 1 NEWS the ban followed 30 complaints that the moko weren't authentic, but some are questioning the blanket ban.

"They go with absolute pride in their hearts and on their faces with the intent to showcase their culture and themselves and they potentially got shot down," Mokopapa organiser Huata Martindale told 1 NEWS.

Both the school and the Christchurch Primary Schools Festival Trust didn't want to comment, but said they're working through a process together.

The festival decided to ban moko after complaints about incorrect use, but it has left some in the school community upset. Source: 1 NEWS


Watch: John Campbell gives emotional farewell to Checkpoint staff on final show as host

John Campbell has given an emotional farewell to Checkpoint staff on his final show as host this evening.

The award winning broadcaster and journalist is moving to TVNZ from Monday next week and made sure to give tribute to his RNZ colleagues before departing.

"I wanted to end by thanking the team in the room around me here who have worked so hard and given such a damn about a programme it’s been my immense good fortune to host.

"I can't thank you enough, God it's been a pleasure and a privilege and I'll miss you all," Campbell said with emotion.

In his new role at TVNZ Campbell will work across 1 NEWS programmes and platforms and will be given a roving brief.

Campbell says he’s looking forward to his new role, which will see him split his time in and out of the studio.

"After 20 years of sitting in a studio five nights a week, I’m really excited by the prospect of spending more time in the field," he says.

"I love getting out, meeting people and sharing their stories. I can’t wait to get to work."

Campbell will file for news and longer pieces for the Sunday programme. He is also likely to step in to present Tonight, Breakfast, Seven Sharp, Sunday, Q+A and 1 NEWS.


"God it’s been a pleasure," Campbell said as his colleagues gathered around. Source: rnz.co.nz


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Meridian discards 'prompt payment discounts' for fairer treatment of struggling Kiwis

One of New Zealand's major power companies has replaced its so-called prompt payment discounts, saying they simply penalise people who struggle to pay their bills.

This move from Meridian Energy comes just days after a Government investigation into electricity prices, which questioned the fairness of the practice.

Budgeting advisers deal with the fallout from steep energy prices on a daily basis.

"We see many people who are constantly being disconnected who find power to be a very significant part of their spending," says Tim Bennett, chief executive of National Building Financial Capability Charity Trust.

This week, a government investigation found those who can't afford to pay their bills on time are being charged up to 26 per cent more for their power.

That's because power companies offer so-called "prompt payment discounts," which look like savings but are really just penalties for those who pay late.

Meridian Energy has now officially pulled the plug on the practice. 

"We're getting rid of the prompt payment discount because it's fundamentally unfair, especially to customers who struggle to pay their bills," says chief executive Neal Barclay.

The move has been welcomed by Energy Minister Megan Woods.

"I'm absolutely thrilled by the leadership that Meridian's showing today, that they've listened to what I think are really compelling arguments - that essentially we had a penalty for those who struggle to pay their power bills the most."

"It's great, I think really they were misleading and they were late payment penalty fees most impacting low income Kiwis and I urge other retailers to do it as well," says Green MP Gareth Hughes. 

"One company at least has seen sense and is going to treat people fairly regardless of how much income they've got," added Mr Bennett.

The Meridian logo Source: 1 NEWS

Other major power companies were contacted by 1 NEWS to see if they'd follow suit.

While Genesis, Contact and Mercury have no plans to ditch their prompt payment discounts, Trustpower is considering it.

Smaller retailers like Pulse Energy, who have already ditched the practice, call the payments deceptive and want them gone for good.

Meridian is set to replace the discount scheme with credits of equal value for all customers and says no one will be worse off. 

"The total cost to us is $5 million so that's money back into those customers' pockets," says Mr Barclay.

The government is now considering further actions to bring prices down. 

The move comes just days after government investigation into electricity prices questioned the fairness of the practice. Source: 1 NEWS


1 NEWS political reporter Katie Bradford says recent scandals 'not a good look for the Government'

Recent scandals have "not been a good look for the Government" according to 1 NEWS political reporter Katie Bradford.

After news came out today that Derek Handley's offer of chief technology officer position has been retracted by the Government, Bradford says there may be more to come.

"The Government is back to the drawing board and there may still be more to come, as Clare Curran said earlier this week she may still have personal emails on her Gmail account, so this is not necessarily over yet."

It has been the drawn-out nature of the Clare Curran saga which has hurt the Government most, Bradford says.

"This has been going on for weeks now, and every week there has been a new development with this, it's not a good look for the Government."

Coupled with other issues, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has had a rough week in politics.

"This week has also seen questions around the stability of the coalition Government and that relationship with NZ First.

"The prime minister goes into this weekend having cancelled her media appearances on some big political TV shows including TVNZ1’s Q+A.

"She says that is because of a diary scheduling era, but on Sunday she is making a big speech on her Government’s first year," Bradford says.

When asked if she was not appearing due to a tough few weeks, Ms Ardern said "absolutely not". Source: 1 NEWS

When asked if she was not appearing due to a tough few weeks, which saw Clare Curran resign from her Ministerial positions and MP Meka Whaitiri stand down while an investigation is pending, Ms Ardern said "absolutely not".

"There's no question I remain very much available for comment on any issue of the day."

From the Clare Curran saga to coalition rifts, the pressure is on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Source: 1 NEWS