Rain set to close highway north of Dunedin

Flooding on State Highway 1 north of Maheno this afternoon. Photos: Rebecca Ryan
Flooding on State Highway 1 north of Maheno this afternoon. Photos: Rebecca Ryan

The heavy rain belting parts of the country looks set to close State Highway 1 between Dunedin and Oamaru overnight.

While several South Island highways affected by snow and flooding earlier today have reopened, North Otago’s rivers are rising and very likely to cause highway closures, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency says.

Flooding on State Highway 1 at Maheno. Photo: Waka Kotahi
Flooding on State Highway 1 at Maheno. Photo: Waka Kotahi
Graeme Hall, System Manager for Waka Kotahi in Otago, says SH1 is likely to close in coming hours north of Maheno at the Kakanui River and north of Hampden at Big Kuri Creek.

There are no detours available so drivers may need to postpone their journeys. Mr Hall said the flooding affecting these areas was expected to continue until at least 9am on Wednesday.

The Waitaki District Council is warning people to stay home as flooding has closed more than 20 roads.

It is closely monitoring the Kakanui River and says other rivers and waterways remain manageable - but are rising.

The council says it is expecting more closures and flooding tonight.

Local schools have been told the roads will not be opened in time for the school run tomorrow morning.

NZTA also warned of a rising Waikouaiti River, saying there was a risk of flooding across SH1 there, and crews were monitoring water levels over the road.

In Dunedin, motorists were urged to take "extreme care" on the Northern Motorway (Dunedin to Waitati), as uneven surfaces and flooding were making conditions dangerous. 

There was also flooding in several places on the highway to Port Chalmers (SH88). 

NZ Army staff have been put on standby in the city, owing to to the forecast heavy rain.

Earlier this afternoon a police spokesman said officers were responding to reports of a slip partially blocking one lane of Portobello Rd, near Company Bay about 2.50pm.

The slip would likely become a council issue but police would attend to assist with traffic, the spokesman said.

Further south, there is a heavy rain watch in place for Clutha until 1pm tomorrow, and surface flooding is expected on some roads.

The Clutha District Council said contractors would continue to monitor the roads, and flooding signs would be erected where possible.

MetService earlier said a front was forecast to move slowly southwards over northern and central New Zealand today, bringing a broad band of rain with some heavy falls, and easterly to northeasterly gales.

An associated low to the west of the upper North Island would also move slowly southwards, then weaken and cross the South Island tomorrow.

Sandbags available in Dunedin

The Dunedin City Council said early this afternoon there were no reports of significant flooding and it did not anticipate major problems.

"However, with another 60 to 90mm of rain expected to fall by 11am tomorrow, it’s important we have plans in place."

Some roads including Surrey St between Hillside Rd and Ruskin Tce in the city and rural fords are closed. Motorists should drive to the conditions and check www.dunedin.govt.nz/road-conditions for the latest closures.

At this stage sandbags were not needed, but as a precautionary measure some would be available from 1.30pm today from:

    • South Dunedin – Victoria Road car park beside the Dunedin Ice Stadium
    • Mosgiel – Memorial Park car park beside the stadium/Mosgiel Memorial Gymnasium

If people are unable to collect sandbags, for example they are elderly or have a disability, call 03 477 4000 and the DCC would try to arrange delivery.