FLOOD PREPARATION behind the scenes

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The basement of Queenstown’s main shopping mall was deliberately flooded last night to prevent water pressure lifting it off the ground.

O’Connells Shopping Centre owner Skyline made the call to pump water into the basement carpark from 5pm on Thursday.

Skyline chairman Ken Matthews says it’s necessary to flood it to equalize the weight in the building.

“We’ve got to flood it otherwise there’s too much pressure from underneath – the water pressure starts trying to push the building out of the ground.”

Meanwhile, this morning downtown at Queenstown Bay it’s a waiting game as a steadily rising Lake Wakatipu laps at the edge of the CBD.

Most downtown businesses in the danger zone have surrounded their frontages with sandbags and polythene.

Skyline has also erected its metre-high, A-frame flood barrier from Thomas’s Hotel on Beach Street right along Earnslaw Park to the edge of Eichardt’s Hotel.

Novotel Lakeside’s boss Jim Moore – whose hotel will be among the worst affected – is one of the few businesses which hasn’t sandbagged.

Moore says during Queenstown’s Big Wet of 1999 sandbags ended up pushing a lot of sediment back into the hotel.

“We’ve got the wire fence out front to stop all of the debris coming in. We feel we’re making the right decision.

“I was up at 4.30am and the lake was starting to get a bit higher but the water’s receding at the moment and the lake’s calm – though they’re saying that could change.”

The latest update puts Lake Wakatipu at 311.396 metres above sea level and rising. The worst-case scenario is just over 312m, which would result in flooding affecting 35 businesses mainly along the waterfront, Rees Street and parts of Marine Parade.

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