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Floods, parasite woes befall NZ’s key tourist town

Roads are covered in water in Queenstown after heavy rain.

Roads are covered in water in Queenstown after heavy rain. Photo: 1NEWS screenshot

Queenstown is suffering twin crises, with a state of emergency issued for flooding in New Zealand’s biggest tourist town and a boil water notice expected to last for months.

More than 100 people were evacuated overnight after heavy rains caused “several flooding and debris events” according to Queenstown Lakes mayor Glyn Lewers.

“The current weather event is an active and evolving situation,” he said.
“We have been working with emergency management throughout the night to assess the full extent of the situation in the current conditions.”

Social media posts show streets overcome with mud, logs and forestry runoff from the nearby hill near the base of the famous Skyline Gondola.

Residents and tourists have been advised to avoid the town centre, with an evacuation centre set up at St Peters Church.

“If travel is essential, then please take extreme care,” Lewers said.

Mr Lewers issued the state of emergency call early on Friday, following a similar declaration in the nearby town of Gore, and then the whole of Southland on Thursday due to the same weather system.

A slow-moving rain band dumped 102mm on Gore, with dozens of volunteer firefighters and locals called in to place sandbags to save properties from flooding.

Queenstown has received around 75mm of rain, which is expected to ease on Friday, with forecasters Metservice issuing warnings for snow to low altitudes across Otago and the Canterbury Plains.

A number of highways are closed due to flooding and slips, including the road to Milford Sound, which received 318mm of rain on Thursday, state highway 1 south of Gore and state highway 6 south Queenstown.

Further damage could follow. Rivers in the region, including the Mataura River — a legendary waterway for brown trout fishing — are not expected to peak until later on Friday.

The nearby Waikaia River has burst its banks, affecting farmland.

The flooding and landslips follow an outbreak of parasite cryptosporidium in Queenstown which it is yet to address.

More than a dozen cases of the highly-infectious bug have been identified this week after complaints of stomach cramps and diarrhoea.

Social media posts suggest a more widespread problem.

While the origin of the outbreak is yet to be confirmed, public health authorities have issued the boil water notice as a precaution to protect further spread.

The national water regulator has issued a compliance order on Queenstown Lakes Council’s Two Mile treatment plant for not having an appropriate parasite filter.

Lewers said a fix that could ease the regulator to lift the boil water notice was still a way off.

“A best case (scenario) would be months … to get the kit to here and install it, it could take some time,” he said.

“We have to take a risk management approach.”

Radio NZ reports local businesses are resorting to bringing in water from nearby lakes to keep their coffee machines running.

-AAP

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