Heavy snow brings chaos to Queenstown (slideshow)


Police and council warn Queenstown motorists to stay off snow-covered roads today (Monday) unless they fit chains. 

More than 30cm of snow has fallen in the Wakatipu since yesterday morning, eclipsing the levels of two solid dumps on July 10 and 12. 

Snow has dusted the road from Bannockburn to Queenstown, it is icy in some patches on the Kawarau Gorge and heavier through the Gibbston Valley and into Queenstown. 

Queenstown Lakes District Council transport manager Denis Mander cautions: “It’s a real bonus for the ski season and we recognise that ski areas are open and there will be ski traffic but all vehicles must have chains fitted.” 

Police advise that people should stay put if they don’t have to go anywhere. 

Local sergeant Brian Cameron states: “We have had a number of accidents reported and there will likely be more to come. 

“Most accidents can be put down to poor decision-making.” 

Mander says QLDC has deployed contractors to keep arterial routes open but roads are treacherous throughout the Wakatipu Basin. 

“Roads have been cleared and gritted but light dry snow continues to fall and there is ice and snow everywhere.” 

A Queenstown man, on his way to work, nearly collided with a bus on Frankton Road when his car lost traction on a steep driveway as he was leaving the Greenstone Apartments. 

“I slid down the driveway and out on to Frankton Road, as a bus was driving towards me,” he says.
“The bus driver swerved to miss me. It was scary.” 

No flights are operating in or out of Queenstown Airport, where a Jetstar plane remains parked after it couldn’t take off yesterday afternoon. 

An airport corporation spokesman says it’s hoped flights may resume this afternoon, but that also depends on the state of other airports – Christchurch International Airport is also closed following a snow storm last night. 

Snow also caused the cancellation of today’s Queenstown District Court sitting. 

Petrol stations are reporting they have ample levels of fuel while the snow is making it tough for tankers to access the resort. 

Caltex Queenstown’s manager Mar Porio says he has three days’ supply of gas, with an extra delivery due tomorrow. “Some people are asking us about how our petrol levels are but we are fine,” he says. 

NZSki boss James Coddington says a fresh 15-25cm of snow has fallen at Coronet Peak and 15-20cm at The Remarkables. 

“There was only a little bit of wind with the snowfall compared to the last storm [a fortnight ago] so it was able to fill in some of the ridges which were stripped.” 

Coddington adds: “It’s very dry snow too, and reports from people who have been skiing already this morning say it’s just amazing.”