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Evacuations, slips and roads closed despite less rain than feared for Canterbury

The threat of Canterbury’s biggest rain event “for several decades” eased overnight, after residents in Le Bons Bay on Banks Peninsula were evacuated and roads closed.

Two fire appliances were sent to Le Bons Bay after reports of slips, but only one made it through, a Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) spokeswoman said just after 8.30pm on Wednesday.

Up to six people from three households were evacuated after a stream burst its banks.

However, Christchurch escaped relatively unscathed despite 75mm of rain – nearly twice the city’s usual monthly total – which saw rivers breach their banks and surface flooding closing a number of roads.

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There were no reports of any houses in the city flooding above floor level.

But residents were asked not to flush toilets, take showers or use washing machines on Wednesday night to ease pressure on the wastewater system, with some wastewater overflows because of the heavy rain, though things were back to normal by Thursday.

The worst of the heavy rain eased late on Wednesday night and by Thursday morning it had largely moved south offshore, the weather starting to clear, MetService meteorologist Juliane Bergdolp said.

A flooded Eastern Tce provided some fun for Jett Coutts, 13, and his dad Scott Coutts

STACY SQUIRES/Stuff

A flooded Eastern Tce provided some fun for Jett Coutts, 13, and his dad Scott Coutts

A number of roads across Christchurch and Banks Peninsula remained closed on Thursday morning, including Long Bay Rd and Goughs Rd on the peninsula, which were shut because of slips.

Motorists were urged to take “extreme care” and drive as slowly as possible through floodwaters.

“The city was well prepared with key stormwater grates checked and cleared, beach outfall dugs out and pumps placed in a number of locations,” city council water boss Helen Beaumont said.

“The stormwater storage basins in the upper Opawaho Heathcote catchment are only partially full and the water will be released slowly over the next couple of days,” 

A total of 81mm of rain fell in Akaroa and 97mm in Duvauchelles.

A Le Bons Bay Rd resident, who lives closer to the Akaroa side, said her property hadn’t been affected by the flooding but “things are really grim” down the hill closer to the bay.

She said a creek that runs down the valley and into Le Bons Bay had burst its bank and the torrent of water was washing rocks and other debris down the road and threatening properties, including her son and daughter-in-law’s, who lived in the valley.

Mike Brown, 73, who has been living on Le Bons Bay Rd for the past 11 years with his wife Adrienne, said they had never seen the level of flooding they saw on Wednesday.

“It was just amazing, it started off as a controlled channel and then all of a sudden it’s going over rock and it’s taken all the dirt and vegetation off.

“The runoff from the hills is just unbelievable, we can look out one of our windows and water is cascading down and chewing into the farmland … it looks like the pink [and white] terraces of Rotorua.”

At least four people and a dog had been evacuated and were at the community hall for the night, he said.

A creek that runs down the valley and into the bay had “inundated” one property near the domain in water, while another had flooding in a garage.

“The water seems to be going down and around through the back of the settlement and coming back out the old creek, but it’s not coping.”

Motorists navigate a flooded Fitzgerald Ave.

STACY SQUIRES/Stuff

Motorists navigate a flooded Fitzgerald Ave.

There was quite significant flooding in his backyard, but his house was still about 150 centimetres above the water when he spoke to Stuff just after 8.30pm.

“We’re a wee bit fortunate because we’re a couple of metres higher than what some of the other baches are but if it was coming from the sea it would be totally different.”

Robin Burleigh, who has lived in Le Bons Bay for 35 years, said it was only the third time he could remember that much rain in the area.

He had friends down on the flat who were totally surrounded by water and were shifting belongings upstairs.

Roads closed due to flooding, including Avonside Dr, between Linwood Ave and Stanmore Rd in Linwood, and Goughs Rd and Long Bay Rd on Banks Peninsula.

A number of overflow and sewer issues were reported across Christchurch and all floodwater should be considered contaminated, said a council spokeswoman.

“Sewers are full and having trouble drawing away in low-lying parts of Shirley, Aranui and Heathcote Valley,” she said.

“We are asking people in these areas to minimise flushing toilets, save having showers until tomorrow morning, and don’t put washing on overnight.”

Jett Coutts, 13, makes the most of a flooded Eastern Tce.

STACY SQUIRES/Stuff

Jett Coutts, 13, makes the most of a flooded Eastern Tce.

Le Bons Bay Rd on Banks Peninsula from the school, Newport St from Emlyn Pl to Wainoni Rd in Avondale and Avonside Dr between Emlyn Pl and Wainoni Rd were also closed, with further closures added shortly after 8pm at River Rd from Medway St to Banks Ave, Fitzgerald Ave from Kilmore St to Cambridge Tce, Avonside Dr from Woodham Rd to Retreat Rd and Edgeware Rd from Hills Rd to Geraldine St.

In Beckenham, the Heathcote River burst its banks near to the junction of Centaurus Rd and Bowenvale Ave.

Resident Scott Coutts said it was the first time the area had flooded since extensive remedial work in 2018.

The water was knee-deep along Eastern Tce, and for Jett Coutts, 13, it was too good an opportunity to miss, so he headed out in his kayak.

“The roads turned into another river, so I thought I might paddle along it,” he said.

“It’s actually surprisingly easy and fun.”

Send us your weather photos and videos. Email reporters@press.co.nz

Peter Timbs Meats was forced to shut about 1pm Wednesday after staff could not stop flood water entering the shop.

Surface flooding at Victoria Square after heavy rain on Wednesday.

Amanda Cropp/Stuff

Surface flooding at Victoria Square after heavy rain on Wednesday.

David Timbs, manager of the Edgeware Rd butchers, said water levels outside the shop were “knee-high” after the drains could not cope with the downpour.

“The rain has been persistent all day and due to the fact the drains have not been fixed by Christchurch City Council we have flooded yet again,” he said.

“We have had a job number for the council for the last four years and still no action.”

The same thing had happened “three or four times a year”, for the past 10 years, he said.

Peter Timbs Meats in St Albans had to close after flood water entered the shop.

ALDEN WILLIAMS/Stuff

Peter Timbs Meats in St Albans had to close after flood water entered the shop.

The 53 staff had been sent home, with both the shop and the factory having to close as they could not get deliveries in or out, he said.

Timbs hoped the shop would reopen on Thursday.

Shop manager David Timbs hopes the shop will reopen on Thursday morning.

ALDEN WILLIAMS/Stuff

Shop manager David Timbs hopes the shop will reopen on Thursday morning.

The council also issued an announcement for those scheduled for kerbside rubbish collection on Thursday.

Those streets which were not “heavily affected” by flooding were being asked to put their bins out on Thursday before 6am rather than overnight to avoid bins being washed away.

The water level in the Avon River is high near the Margaret Mahy Playground in central Christchurch.

Dominic Harris/Stuff

The water level in the Avon River is high near the Margaret Mahy Playground in central Christchurch.

Civil Defence teams were last night on stand-by in case any homes had to be evacuated.

During May flooding, some inland areas recorded their largest rainfalls ever, including Mt Somers with 526mm in just 48 hours.

Surface flooding on Fitzgerald Ave.

STACY SQUIRES/Stuff

Surface flooding on Fitzgerald Ave.

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The stormwater storage basins upstream of the Heathcote River, which were designed to ease the pressure on the rivers, were expected to reach capacity overnight.

State Highway 1 in Domett, North Canterbury, is down to one lane near Darrochs Rd due to flooding.

NZTA/SUPPLIED

State Highway 1 in Domett, North Canterbury, is down to one lane near Darrochs Rd due to flooding.

Any residents with concerns about flooding should call the council on 03 941 8999, while anyone with concerns for their safety should call 111 immediately.

The Waimakariri District Council had temporarily closed all fords in the district and Lees Valley Rd, which was damaged in the May storm.

Staff were inspecting road and stormwater infrastructure, and closing known flood areas ahead of time.

North of Christchurch there were reports of at least one house flooded in Leithfield Beach.

Flooding across State Highway 1 near Domett, North Canterbury.

STACY SQUIRES/Stuff

Flooding across State Highway 1 near Domett, North Canterbury.

A Fenz spokesman said crews from Amberley were being sent to Kowai St after receiving reports of a stream bursting its banks and threatening to flood at least two nearby houses and a garage about 5.40pm.

Kenny Moore, a resident of the coastal village, said although the rivers were not overly high, there was a lot of surface water in the area.

“In Penfold Sq, there is probably 6 to 8 inches (15-20 centimres) of water,” he said.

Hurunui District Council chief executive Hamish Dobbie said there had been a “small amount” of surface water at Leithfield Beach.

Flood gates were pre-emptively opened on Tuesday as they knew the rain was coming, Dobbie said.

MetService meteorologist Dan Corrigan earlier said the rain was coming from warm, moist air from the north wrapping around a low pressure system.

“The warm air holds more moisture … meaning more rain,” he said.

The average rainfall for December was 42mm.



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