Queenstown on brink of flood

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Downtown Queenstown businesses are scrambling to prepare for flooding as Lake Wakatipu breaches official warning levels.

Blair Pattinson (pictured), assistant boss at Minus 5 bar at Steamer Wharf, started shifting gear to higher ground this afternoon [Wednesday] when water levels in the Bay started to rise significantly.

“They’re expecting low-level flooding from 3pm tomorrow and with the rain, the lake level should get higher, by the looks of the reports I’ve heard,” Pattinson says.

“We’re shifting heavy equipment [by lift] to an office upstairs.”

Queenstown mayor Clive Geddes issued a warning an hour ago at 4.45pm saying forecast rain could see the lake reach levels which will lead to some flooding of low-lying areas of reserve around Queenstown Bay, Kingston and Glenorchy.

“With the heavy rain received over the last week the lake reached the first warning level of 310.8 metres on Monday night,’ Geddes says.

That triggered QLDC to make contact with retailers in the 1999 flood zone to ‘dust off’ flood plans, empty grease traps and consider dry land options for stock.

Otago Regional Council in conjunction with the Met service has forecast that Lakes Wanaka and Wakatipu are set to rise, with further rain forecast tomorrow.

“There is a likelihood that low level flooding will occur on roads and reserves within the next one-to-two days,” Geddes says. Lake Wanaka was expected to continue to remain below flooding levels.

“The ORC modelling indicates some low-lying parts of the Queenstown CBD could be affected by the lake level on Friday or Saturday”, ORC director of environmental information and science John Threlfall says.

Geddes adds: “We will know more tomorrow but if we reach the position that we feel we need to take some more significant measures, such as sandbagging then we will give retailers plenty of lead in time.”

At this stage both councils had adopted a ‘watching brief’.

“Council staff have visited retailers in the potential flood zone and provided information to assist in preparation for a flood. At this stage it is precautionary,’ Geddes says.

People can keep an eye on the lake level on the ORC website.

for more Queenstown flood news.

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