Lake level drops, sort of


Queenstown’s flood-prone and dangerously high Lake Wakatipu has shown its first sign of dropping.
Otago Regional Council engineering and natural hazards director Gavin Palmer says at 3pm the lake showed a drop of 2.5 centimetres to 311.455m above sea level. 

Palmer says he cautions that it’s too soon to know if this is the start of a downward trend. 

“The small drop could be attributed to slop on the lake so it is too soon to consider the lake might have peaked,” Palmer says. 

If the downward trend continues into tomorrow, Mr Palmer says it could be taken as an indication the lake has started to recede. 

“We will be more comfortable once we see a drop in the order of 10cm,” he says. 

Looking further ahead, authorities aren’t expecting Lake Wakatipu to recede to a safer level for another 10 days. 

Queenstown mayor Clive Geddes says it isn’t expected to be back to the first flood trigger level of 310.8m till about May 10. 

“We need to reinforce that between now and then the lake will remain at a very high level and the risk of wave action driven by wind remains,” Geddes says. 

“We feel we’re getting on the positive side of the event but there’s still risk.” 

Some retailers who’d evacuated their premises several days ago started restocking their outlets along Rees Street – a block from Queenstown Bay – this morning. 

Most of Queenstown is open for business and the regular Saturday market at Earnslaw Park was relocated to the more central Village Green on Camp Street. 

Just before midday Queenstown Lakes District Council officials decided to remove road blocks at the top of Beach Street, and from the Shotover Street end of Rees Street. 

Earl Street is also expected to be reopened. 

However, a ponding lower Beach Street remains closed to traffic. 

The Queenstown Gardens end of Marine Parade and Queenstown Bay parks are heavily swamped. Most retail outlets in the danger zone are still heavily sandbagged and huge blocks and concrete pipes designed to ease any wave action will stay in place along the downtown wharf edge. 

A further update is expected on Monday morning.

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