Wind wreaks havoc across region

A Queenstown Lakes District Council contractor works to clear fallen trees from the Glenorchy-Queenstown Rd yesterday afternoon. Photo by Blair Pattinson.
A Queenstown Lakes District Council contractor works to clear fallen trees from the Glenorchy-Queenstown Rd yesterday afternoon. Photo by Blair Pattinson.

Wind wreaked havoc in the Queenstown area yesterday, downing trees and powerlines, closing roads and skifields, and forcing flights to be diverted and cancelled.

Delta general manager asset management Derek Todd said power cuts affected 413 customers at Millbrook and Lake Hayes between 5.30am and 9am, 727 customers in Frankton, Dalefield, Coronet Peak and Arrowtown for about half an hour from 7.30am, and another 1393 customers in Arrowtown between 8.30am and 9.05am.

The outages were caused by trees or branches falling on lines or damaged poles.

A PowerNet spokesman said about 200 customers between Athol and Kingston lost power for an hour until noon, and 216 customers in Kingston were without power from noon until 1pm. The power cut was caused by a tree falling on lines.

At 11.10am, the Queenstown Volunteer Fire Brigade was called to Queenstown Hill after three high-voltage power lines were downed.

Catherine Lewis and her daughter Emiline (13) were walking up the track when they heard a ''creaking tree''.

Mrs Lewis said she heard a ''crash and a huge explosion''.

After walking another 20m, they spotted the three lines, returned to the car park and called emergency services.

The fire service asked Queenstown Lakes District Council to close the track due to the risk of trees falling.

Council spokeswoman Meaghan Miller said contractors were sent to the site yesterday afternoon to assess the situation.

The council reminded visitors and residents to take care in forested areas and trails due to the ''blustery conditions''.

Six trees came down across the Glenorchy-Queenstown road, below Fernhill, forcing a traffic diversion for four and a-half hours.

And fallen trees in Wilsons Bay blocked the Glenorchy-Queenstown road about 5pm.

Trees came down on McKay Rd, in Wanaka, on the Cardrona Valley Rd and the Wanaka-Mt Aspiring Rd.

Flights were affected in and out of Queenstown Airport yesterday, with three incoming flights diverted and two outbound flights cancelled.

The Remarkables and Coronet Peak ski areas did not open yesterday because of severe winds.

The Remarkables ski area manager Ross Lawrence said gusts of up to 140kmh were recorded on the skifield, but

were forecast to ease. He was confident of reopening today.

Coronet Peak ski area manager Ross Copland said the field was closed for safety reasons because of wind gusts of more than 100kmh on the mountain.

He expected the skifield to reopen today.