Lake rising but flood threat easing

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Business owners in downtown Queenstown can breathe a sigh of relief – for now.

The latest flood threat update shows Lake Wakatipu is expected to remain at its existing level for the next two days, according to Queenstown Lakes District Council and Otago Regional Council officials.

QLDC civil defence controller James Hadley says the lake is continuing to rise “quite slowly” but not a lot of rain is forecast during the next 48 hours.

“We’re in a situation where the lake will stay at the same level for the next several days.

“It’s a case of monitoring the situation. The biggest risk we see is wave action from the wind.”

ORC natural hazards manager Gavin Palmer says a heavy rain forecast for Monday is likely to be confined to the West Coast and have no significant effect on Lake Wakatipu’s level.

Rainfall last night in Queenstown was at the lower end of the Metservice’s predictions.

He expects the lake – sitting at 311.4m above sea level – to peak at 311.5 later tonight or tomorrow.

Palmer points out the lake needs to drop to below 310.8m, which could take a week, before it is considered safe enough to handle significant rainfall or waves.

Queenstown mayor Clive Geddes says the flood threat is far from over.

“Just because we’ve had a relatively positive outcome overnight does not mean we’re going to recommend that people tear down what they have done. We will continue to provide information to enable people to make their own decisions on flood protection.”

Calf deep water has swamped the Queenstown Bay foreshore right up to the front of the Novotel Lakeside hotel and several residents in outlying township Glenorchy have evacuated their homes as a pre-caution.

Downtown Queenstown businesses aren’t taking any chances and most within the danger zone are heavily sandbagged whilst council employees were still filling more sandbags at midday.

Further updates are expected.

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