Homes evacuated in flooding, slips block highways in North Island

Raine Street in Whanganui, about 3am on Sunday. Whanganui District Council / Supplied

By Hannah Martin, Tom Hunt and Erin Gourley, Stuff

Residents were evacuated from homes, state highways blocked, and properties without power due to flooding and landslips across the North Island over the weekend.

A heavy rain watch for Whanganui, Taihape, and Manawatū through Saturday night and Sunday morning saw heavy rainfall across the region, leading to localised evacuations – including in Marton – and several minor car crashes across the Central district.

Drivers were still being urged to check road and weather conditions online before they travel, and delay their journey if it is not safe.

Surface flooding in Trickers Road, Bulls, after rain hit the North Island. Source / Supplied

Heavy rainfall, council monitoring waterway levels

The highest reading was at Kauangaroa beside the Whangaehu River east of Whanganui, which got 79.5mm of rain between 5pm on Saturday and 8am on Sunday.

The 52.4mm that fell at Whanganui Airport in the same period made for the second-wettest May day there since 1971.

High areas around Manawatū and Whanganui got between 60mm and 70mm of rain overnight, MetService meteorologist Dan Corrigan said.

The low pressure system that brought the rain had moved off to the east of New Zealand but strong westerly winds remained, MetService earlier said.

As rain fell, multiple waterways rose. Horizons Regional Council closed the Makino floodgates at 2am on Sunday, to divert water away from Feilding.

These were reopened later in the morning, and shut again before 9am, due to the stream rising.

Shortly after 2pm, Horizons emergency operations centre controller Dr Jon Roygard​ said most waterways across the region were falling, or forecast to begin falling on Sunday afternoon.

Horizons Regional Council operated the Makino floodgates at 2am on Sunday, closing them to divert water away from the Feilding township, amid heavy rain over the region.  Horizons Regional Council / Supplied

The Turakina River was expected to peak on Sunday afternoon, and would likely result in Koitiata becoming isolated.

Rangitīkei District Council had plans in place to support the community, he said.

The Tutaenui Stream had caused some flooding on the northern side of Bulls, but had peaked and was falling; and while the Manawatū River near the Moutua floodgates was rising, water levels are forecast to stay well below gate operation levels, he said.


Rangitīkei District Council had “a few people and a cat” at a Civil Defence Centre in Marton, Roygard earlier said.

People who were evacuated in Whanganui had been provided accommodation, and many had been able to return home on Sunday morning.

A number of homes alongside Tutaenui Stream in Marton had been evacuated, Rangitikei District mayor Andy Watson told RNZ.

A welfare and evacuation centre was set up at a former school site, Te Rūnanga o Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa.

About midday, chief executive Grant Huwyler told RNZ four families have been processed.

“As a rūnanga based in that community we do like to provide assistance where we can, this is just another case where we’ve got the facilities, and we’re able to help. We’re more than happy to do that and play this role.”

Emergency services respond to flooding, roofs lifting

Fire and Emergency received more than 60 weather-related calls for assistance in the Taranaki, Whanganui and Manawatū areas, since 4pm Saturday.

Twenty were classed as urgent.

Most calls were related to flooding at properties and roofs lifting, but one, in Whanganui, was to assist after a tree fell on a car following a landslide about 9.30pm.

Two people were in the car, but both managed to get out of the car without needing assistance from our crews.

Rangitīkei District Council was also working with the lines' company to restore power to the Hunterville rural water scheme, which provides water to Hunterville and the surrounding rural area.

Power was expected to be restored on Sunday afternoon, Roygard said.

Road impacted

Waka Kotahi gave the following update on road closures, as of 1.30pm on Sunday:


  • SH1 between Mangaweka and Taihape is open but under stop/go traffic control.
  • SH1 at the intersection with Calico Line in Marton is open.
  • SH3 Whanganui to north of Whangaehu, between Warrengate and Wikitoria Roads is open to Northbound traffic only. If you're travelling south, please follow the signposted detour.
  • SH3 between Bulls (at Wilson Street and Pukepapa Road) is currently closed.
  • SH4 Anzac Parade in Whanganui is closed around the Durie Hill Steps due to a slip.
  • SH54 between Kimbolton Road, Cheltanham and Cooks Road is closed.

There were no closures in Taranaki as of 1.30pm, but roading crews were busy clearing smaller slips and fallen trees.

Waka Kotahi Manawatū-Whanganui and Taranaki system manager Rob Service said with river levels expected to peak mid-afternoon, they were hoping roads could be opened later on Sunday “in a number of places”.

Other areas, like Whanganui’s Anzac Parade “may take a little longer, so please be patient”.