18 Sep 2010

Southland loses stadium as snow collapses roof

8:15 pm on 18 September 2010

Southland's indoor stadium will have to be largely rebuilt. Most of the roof buckled under the pressure of heavy snow on Saturday and collapsed.

The stadium's general manager, Nigel Skelt, says the velodrome is the only part of the venue that has come out unscathed: everything else, including seating, has been destroyed.

He says he understands the roof came down in one big loud bang, at just after 11am but luckily some junior tennis matches had just finished and no one was hurt. At any other time, he says, it could have caused a catastrophe.

Mr Skelt says the 10-year-old stadium, which is home to the local netball and basketball teams, is something of an icon for Southlanders and its destruction is very saddening.

It had been booked out for the rest of this year with events, he says, so alternative venues will have to be found.

Rebuilding could take 18 months

Mr Skelt says that at this stage it looks as though the whole building will have to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch, which could take up to 18 months.

He says the wind is picking up, causing a safety hazard with loose debris, so rubberneckers should stay away. One of the walls is being demolished for safety reasons.

Southland Civil Defence is urging property owners to check their own roofs, following reports from some commercial property owners of their roofs showing signs of stress under the snow.

People advised to stay home

Emergency Management Southland is meanwhile warning people to stay at home and only travel on the roads if absolutely necessary.

It says all roads are still open but some are marginal, and there is potential for further snow showers, with ice expected overnight.

The Met Service says about 16 centimetres of snow has fallen in Southland in the past 24 hours, and a further five to 10 centimetres is expected by midday Sunday.

Police say several cars have slid off the road in Invercargill, with minor damage but no injuries, while rural roads are described as very slippery.

The dairy company Fonterra is advising farmers that, with trucks unable to return to Edendale at present, they should hold as little milk as possible.