State of emergency declared in Queenstown after torrential rain

by Kim Bowden - Sep 22, 2023

A cryptosporidium outbreak and now a state of emergency for Queenstown in response to torrential rain causing flooding, debris flows and household evacuations.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council has declared a state of emergency as at 6.33am (Friday, September 22), for an initial seven day period.

More than 100 people have been evacuated from homes around both Brecon Street, by the gondola, and Reavers Lane, behind Gorge Road, as water and debris flows down roads, causing damage. People are asked not to return to any property until given the 'all-clear'.

Meanwhile contractors are responding to a sewage overflow that has forced the closure of the lakeside Frankton Track.

The start of the road towards Glenorchy first thing this morning, Friday, September 22).

Central primary and preschools have also closed for the day - including Queenstown Primary School, Whakatipu Kindergarten and Queenstown Preschool Nursery - and authorities want people to avoid travel in the Queenstown CBD where possible.

Rain is expected to continue over the coming hours, although it is forecast to ease later in the day, with snow above 600 metres and potentially at the Crown Range Summit.

In a written statement to media, Mayor Glyn Lewers says the declaration is necessary given the considerable rainfall experienced by Queenstown over the last 24 hours.

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

“Several flooding and debris events have been identified and we’re continuing to contact affected people including evacuating over 100 people. A temporary evacuation centre has been set up at St Peter's Church to manage evacuees who have not been able to relocate.

“Please avoid travel through or around the town centre. If travel is essential, then please take extreme care.

The declaration was signed following formal advice from Emergency Management Otago Group Controller Matt Alley.

It enables emergency services and response agencies to draw on resources, and enact additional powers, to assist those affected.

Council staff and emergency services have been working throughout the night and morning to assess and manage the impacts of the weather.

Emergency services respond to the Reavers Lane flooding (Image: Facebook/QLDC).

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What you need to know:

  • Flooding and debris is flowing down Brecon Street towards the town centre, causing damage and requiring evacuations from multiple properties.
  • Flooding and debris has also required evacuations from properties on Reavers Lane, Fryer Street and Hamilton Road.
  • Multiple roads are closed throughout the Queenstown Town Centre and around the district. Latest details can be found here:
  • Please avoid non-essential travel through or around the town centre. If travel is essential, please take care, follow safety signage or the instructions of traffic management staff.
  • Queenstown Primary School, Whakatipu Kindergarten and Queenstown Preschool Nursery will be closed today (Friday, September 22). If you are affected by these closures please contact the education facilities directly. 
  • Contractors are also responding to a sewerage overflow at the Frankton Track. The track is currently closed, please avoid the area.

More information on evacuations: 

  • 68 people have been evacuated from the Brecon Street area.
  • 41 have been evacuated from the Reavers Lane area. 
  • If you’ve been affected by evacuations, please do not return to your property until you have been advised it is safe to do so. If you have not made contact with the council, please call customer services on 03 441 0499 as soon as possible. 

General messages:

  • This is an active and evolving situation. 
  • It is difficult to assess the full extent of the situation in the current conditions.
  • Council staff, contractors and emergency services will further assess damage when conditions allow. 
  • Rain is forecast to continue and expected to ease on Friday afternoon. This is expected to turn to snow above 600 metres. Heavy snowfall is possible above 800 metres from 12 hours from 6am to 6pm.
  • There is a road snow warning in place: Snow is expected to lower early Friday morning to about 700 metres. Three to five centimetres of snow may accumulate near the Crown Range summit during Friday morning and early afternoon, with lesser amounts down to 700 metres.
  • Lake levels are below first warning level. Levels can be monitored here:

Main image: Debris covers the footpath and road on Shotover Street in the Queenstown CBD, Friday, September 22.

Read more: Queenstown evacuations as debris flows impact houses

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