Strong gales hit Ag Fest site

Ag Fest co-owner Andy Thompson on site this morning. Photo: Greymouth Star
Ag Fest co-owner Andy Thompson on site this morning. Photo: Greymouth Star

Contractors were out in howling winds and the dark last night to drop four marquees at the Ag Fest site at Greymouth aerodrome ahead of gale-force winds this morning.

The site was a hive of activity this morning as about 30 people helped stabilise tents damaged in the strong south-easterlies, as preparations resumed for the festival opening on Friday morning.

The wintry storm dumped snow on Arthur's Pass, where the temperature fell to 0degC overnight, and a chilly 11degC in Greymouth this morning.

Winds gusted to 117kph at Cape Foulwind (wind readings are not taken in Greymouth) and 93kph at Westport airport.

At the Ag Fest site, the wind was howling through the power-lines and rattling the aero club sheds.

Ag Fest co-owner Andy Thompson, who was back on site early this morning, said the contractors who erected the marquees made the decision to drop four peg and pole marquees at 10pm yesterday.

The largest framed marquee was left standing, but moved sideways in the wind. Another sustained cosmetic damage.

Today had been set aside for tent building and for some exhibitors to move larger gear on to the site. The wind was expected to die down this afternoon, so Mr Thompson was hoping exhibitors could get on to the aerodrome tomorrow morning to start setting up, as planned.

"We are still assessing that, but think it should be okay."

The layout may need to be altered a little. However offers of help were pouring in, including from people working nearby on the new Greymouth Hospital.

After today, the weather is set to improve, and fine weather is forecast for the festival days of Friday and Saturday.

"The show must go on," Mr Thompson said.

They always knew the site would be a challenge, but during the first Ag Fest in Hokitika a storm came in on the Friday night and blew tents down.

"That's the nature of the Coast."

Power out in region

Meanwhile, the wild weather cut electricity to parts of Karoro, South Beach, Paroa and Rutherglen last night and again this morning.

Westport was getting the brunt of it, with lots of roofs needing to be secured. Trees were down on Rutherglen Rd.


The snow meant chains were essential from Arthur's Pass right through to Porters Pass until about 9.30am, and there was a wind warning for State highway 6 from Ross to Haast. Police reported strong gusts at the Haast Bridge.

Snow was expected to continue to fall on Porters Pass until midday tomorrow. MetService warned to expect 20 to 30cm about the summit.

Conditions on Lewis Pass should improve from this afternoon onwards.

State Highway 67 (Westport to Karamea) was closed temporarily due to shed roof iron lifting near Garveys Road.

State Highway 6 was closed this morning at Pukekura due to fallen trees, with hundreds of cars backed up.

A hay shed lost its roof at Ngahere and a campervan was reportedly blown over south of Whataroa.

-  By Laura Mills

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