Southern lakes expected to rise further

Forecast rain is expected to continue to lift the levels of Lakes Wanaka and Wakatipu this evening and in coming days.

The Otago Regional Council (ORC) this afternoon said there was a MetService weather watch in place for heavy rain in the Otago headwaters today, and "reasonably high intensity rain" was expected on Friday.

The ORC said both lakes were at very high levels and may take several weeks to return to normal levels.

At 3pm today, Lake Wanaka was at 279.97m. The ORC said its modelling estimates the lake will reach 280.3-280.5m by late in the weekend. Inundation of Ardmore St can occur at 280.0m. 

This level is above the January 2013 peak (279.4m), but well short of the November 1999 peak (281.3m). 

Earlier story:

Lake Wakatipu was at 311.20m at 3pm. ORC now estimates it will reach 311.4m by Sunday afternoon, which is 0.1m above the level where flooding of the Queenstown stormwater system is a possibility. 

This level is still well short of historic flood levels such as the November 1999 event (312.8m) and May 2010 event (311.48m).

Most roads in the South are open but a slip has closed State Highway 6 between Haast and Fox Glacier.

Rain continued to fall in Wanaka today, resulting in the closure of some lakefront shops and streets in the town. 

A decision was also taken to shut down the sewer connection to a handful of premises on Ardmore Street, Wānaka. This temporary measure has been done to mitigate the potential for sewage to enter the lake. Those retailers affected have been advised, the QLDC said.

MetService said both Wānaka and Queenstown Airports have surpassed their average December rainfall in the first five days of the month.

Queenstown Lakes District Council deputy mayor Calum MacLeod, said late this morning the flows of the tributary in the Makarora dropped overnight, which was good news.

But the big unknown was the weekend - with more rain forecast, he said.

"That's more rain in the hills - where we don't want it. So it's a watching brief."

Part of Ardmore St was shut from late this morning. Photo: Kerre Waterworth
Part of Ardmore St was shut from late this morning. Photo: Kerre Waterworth
Harbourmaster Marty Black said this afternoon people should still not be going out on to lakes and rivers in the area.

“We recommend everyone stays off the rivers, in particular the Mata-Au Clutha River which is at High-Level Alert. We are continuing to monitor the flow rates and if necessary will explicitly prohibit any activity on these waterways, such as the Clutha and Kawarau,” Mr Black said.

People are also asked to avoid any boating activity on the lakes, and the jetties at Lake Wanaka have been closed. There is significant risk due to the possibility of floating debris and submerged structures, he said.

He asked owners of kayaks and small craft located anywhere on the Wanaka and Wakatipu lakefronts retrieve these as soon as possible, whether or not they are tethered.

QLDC  this morning decided to close a section of Ardmore St, in Wanaka, between McDougall St and Lakeside Rd.

Vehicles have been driving through flood water on the street causing "wave action" which can result in damage to properties in the area, it said.

A 30kmh speed limit has been implemented to cover the whole Wanaka CBD.


Cars drive through a flooded part of Ardmore St in Wanaka this morning. Photo: Kerrie Waterworth
Vehicles were driving through flood water on the street causing "wave action" which could result in damage to properties QLDC said. Photo: Kerrie Waterworth

A reporter in Wanaka said rain is still falling and there are still a few tourists about the town although fewer than was usual at this time of year.

The Mount Aspiring Rd closure has now been extended and is now closed from Roys Peak, the QLDC said.

The closure will be in place until lake levels drop however emergency access was still available.


Climate worsening.

You cannot have your kayak and heat it.