Flights grounded as Cyclone Gita approaches

By Jessica Tyson

Air New Zealand has cancelled a number of flights scheduled for this afternoon as ex Cyclone Gita approaches and weather conditions are forecast to deteriorate.

According to MetService the cyclone is expected to impact much of central New Zealand over the next 24 hours.

Heavy rain is already occurring from Taranaki southwards towards the Marlborough Sounds and is expected to spread over Buller and Nelson over the next few hours.

"There is even a Road Snow Warning in place for the Crown Range Road tonight," says a MetService spokesperson.

The airline has cancelled all services into and out of Wellington from 2.45pm today through until midnight.

“This may have a flow-on effect to other services,” the airline said in a statement.

Trains cancelled

Around 1,400 passengers will be affected after KiwiRail’s TranzAlpine service closure today and tomorrow due to the severe weather.

“We regret the inconvenience to our customers," says KiwiRail Group General Manager Sales and Commercial, Alan Piper, "We are always striving to deliver the best possible service, but safety is paramount.”

A rail charter service between Christchurch and Arthur’s Pass has also been cancelled.

“At this stage no Interislander sailings have been cancelled as a result of the weather, however we are continuing to closely monitor the situation and cancellations are possible.”

Road closures

The New Zealand Transport Agency is advising motorists that State Highway 1 has been closed north and south of Kaikoura due to heavy rain and the risk of slips and rockfalls.

“With steady rain falling along the Kaikoura coastline, the Transport Agency closed State Highway 1 on both sides of the town Mangamaunu to Clarence and Peketa to Goose Bay,” NZTA said in a statement.

The inland road via Waiau, Route 70,  remains open for road access to Kaikoura.

“While crews will aim to keep it open as long as possible, drivers are urged to delay all but essential trips in the area until the severe weather has passed.”

All drivers travelling from Picton to Christchurch are advised to take the Lewis Pass route via Waipara and St Arnaud.

Schools closed

Over 40 schools and 17 early learning centres at the top of the South Island are closed today in anticipation of Cyclone Gita.

The Ministry of Education says schools in the Nelson City, Marlborough, Tasman, Buller, Grey Kaikoura and Westland districts have made plans overnight to close for the day - or close early with severe weather warnings in place.

“We will provide support where and as requested for as long it is needed. In the meantime we recommend parents and whānau check their school or early childhood service websites or Facebook pages, or contact them directly to get the most up to date information,” the ministry said in a statement.