Wellington, Feb 27, 2020 (AFP) - New Zealand has deployed soldiers to help prevent drought-stricken North Island towns from running dry as authorities consider imposing water restrictions in Auckland, the country's largest city. Meteorologists have said areas of the North Island are experiencing the longest dry spell for seven years, with severe drought conditions in Northland and parts of greater Auckland. Troops with trucks capable of carrying large loads of water were sent to Northland this week to help replenish storage tanks in parched towns and settlements. "Water is an important resource and we are happy to help the communities," second lieutenant Josh Gaul-Crown said Thursday.
Tankers owned by dairy giant Fonterra are also being used to freight in water between their regular milk collection runs. The situation has become so dire that thieves stole 40,000 litres (8,800 gallons) of water from a tank at Tinopai school, an act principal Sonya Kaihe described as "despicable". Northland civil defence chief Graeme MacDonald said central holding tanks in the towns of Rawene, Kaikohe and Kaitaia had been replenished and there was no need for residents to panic. "If the taps go dry, we have water available in tanks for you," he said. "We know that you're under stress, we know that it's a difficult time, your water will be delivered in due course, just be patient."
The government has allocated NZ$2.0 million (US$1.3 million) to ensure supplies are maintained and plans are under way to divert bore water from farms to the regional hub of Kaitaia. In Auckland, utility Watercare said soaring demand with unseasonally hot temperatures was placing further pressure on already depleted supplies. Spokeswoman Roseline Klein urged the city's 1.5 million residents to curb water usage if they wanted to avoid restrictions being imposed. "With further hot and dry days forecast, we're growing increasingly concerned about Auckland's skyrocketing water use," she said. "We're calling for people to think before turning on their taps."
Date: Wed, 5 Feb 2020 02:27:15 +0100 (MET)
Wellington, Feb 5, 2020 (AFP) - Severe flooding forced thousands of residents in New Zealand's South Island to flee their homes on Wednesday and left hundreds of tourists stranded at the remote Milford Sound beauty spot. The Southland region declared a state of emergency after being deluged with more than 1,000 mm of rainfall in 60 hours, triggering landslides on major roads and causing rivers to burst their banks.
Authorities told residents in the low-lying areas of Gore and Mataura to evacuate immediately early on Wednesday as floodwaters in the Mataura river peaked, warning those further downstream in Wyndham to prepare to leave. "We have issued notices to evacuate and to prepare to evacuate to 6,000 people across the region," an Emergency Management Southland (EMS) spokeswoman told AFP.
Residents were advised to grab medication, clothing and identification documents, then head to higher ground. Power to affected areas was cut off as a precaution and evacuation centres were set up in local churches and schools.
Floodwaters washed away sections of the only road to Milford Sound, a popular hiking spot for international tourists, and EMS said almost 200 people were being airlifted to nearby Te Anau. "The tourists... have been well catered for," it said. "Morale has been high amongst the visitors and staff, as they received regular briefings and have been in contact with friends and family." Only two minor injuries have been reported after a landslide hit a hut on the Routeburn walking track, with both people receiving treatment at the scene.
More than 2400 people travelling on the Interislander over the holidays may have been exposed to measles. A child, whose family had chosen not to vaccinate, likely contracted the measles in Auckland, then crossed Cook Strait on the Interislander's Kaitaki ferry twice during the holiday period.
There were 1219 passengers on the 1st crossing and 1220 passengers on the 2nd. KiwiRail, which runs the Interislander, became aware of the issue after the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) publicly notified the case on Tuesday [7 Jan 2020].
The CDHB urged people who had not been vaccinated and may have come into contact with the child to isolate themselves. "We are contacting all passengers and crew who travelled on the 2 affected sailings to provide health advice from the Canterbury District Health Board," KiwiRail tourism and marketing executive general manager Ahleen Rayner said. [See URL above for locations, dates of possible exposure.] [Byline: Oliver Lewis]
A total of 7 new cases of measles have been confirmed in Hawke's Bay in the past 2 weeks, taking the total to 26 for the year . Hawke's Bay District Health Board Medical Officer of Health Dr. Rachel Eyre said the new cases were linked to an infant too young to be immunised, who had been hospitalised recently.
"Public health has worked hard over the Christmas break to identify other close contacts to identify those not immune (protected against measles) because of the high likelihood they could get it too," she said. Dr. Eyre said, as the cases were all closely linked, any risk to the wider general public was low. [Byline: Christian Fuller]