5 Aug 2008

Huntly College reopens, Ruatoria still cut off

10:09 pm on 5 August 2008

Huntly College will reopen on Wednesday, after being closed by flooding for two days.

The school was shut as a precautionary measure after water covered some of its grounds and lapped at the doors of buildings.

The principal, Tim Foy, says it will be business as usual in the morning, though some of the playing fields will be kept out of bounds while the water drains.

The Waikato Regional Council says it is confident the worst of the flooding in the region is over, but the situation will continue to be monitored.

Although the Waikato river is continuing to rise, it is slowing as peak flows pass downstream.

The council's Jan Hania says the MetService is forecasting up to 30 millimetres of rain on Friday, but in the meantime saturated land is able to drain.

He says council staff are confident the stopbanks along the river will continue to hold, keeping water off about 26,000 hectares of low-lying farmland.

Ruatoria still isolated

The New Zealand Transport Agency says State Highway 35 north of Ruatoria will remain closed overnight on Tuesday, but should be open to some vehicles on Wednesday.

Sunday's closure of the road because of a major slip about six kilometres north of the town has hampered delivery of food supplies to shops and disrupted the activities of many people, including students being able to get to schools in Ruatoria.

Network operations manager Gordon Hart says the area above and below the highway is saturated and the priority has been to install subsoil drains to stabilise the ground. He says there is still a lot of water coming out of the bank above and below the road, but drainage is making a difference.

He says he will have a better idea on Wednesday about when the road will be stable enough for heavy vehicles, such as logging trucks.

Wellington landslips

There were two further landslips in Wellington on Tuesday, partially blocking roads, after several days of heavy rain.

Continual rain brought down dirt and rubble onto Tinakori Road, near the Hutt Road intersection, closing one side of the road. Another slip closed one lane of Ohiro Road in Brooklyn.

More than 20 slips were recorded across the Wellington region on Sunday, and Wellington City Council expected more to occur because soil moisture levels remained high.

Slips closed Palliser Road in the suburb of Roseneath, except to residents, on Monday, and Devon Street in the Aro Valley has been shut since Sunday.

A house in Aro Valley was evacuated on Sunday after a slip eroded its foundations and blocked the street.

Rail, road closures

Elsewhere, the clean-up of damage and restoration of rail and power services disrupted by last week's storms continued on Tuesday.

The South Island's main rail line, which has been closed for four days because of a large slip 10 kilometres south of Kaikoura, reopened on Tuesday to freight trains.

The TranzCoastal passenger service between Christchurch and Picton is due to resume on Wednesday.

Priority needed for power

The mayor of the Hauraki district says power companies should give higher priority to restoring supplies to rural areas after storms.

High winds across the country last week left thousands of households without electricity.

John Tregidga says some dairy farmers in the Waikato region were unable to milk their herds for up to three days.

He says power firms pulled all the stops out for urban areas, but there should be greater awareness of the animal welfare implications for farming communities.

Mr Tregidga says the suggestion that farmers could install back-up generators could prove expensive for smaller operators.

Horowhenua/Kapiti power restored

Fonterra said on Tuesday that most of its dairy farmers in Horowhenua and Kapiti have had their power restored after last week's storms.

The company said the focus was now on ensuring access to farms for milk tankers.

It expects to have its emergency response teams in the area for another week, providing back-up for farmers.

Marlborough road repairs

Transit New Zealand says repairs to roads throughout Marlborough could take months after damage from last week's floods.

Old Renwick Road leading to the state highway at Renwick remains closed due to flooding, while several others have only reopened on Tuesday following the previous Wednesday's downpour.

Queen Charlotte Drive and Port Underwood Road are down to single lane in places, due to slips.

Transit's Marlborough Roads division says the flood impact on roads is the worst for 10 to 15 years.