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LIVE UPDATES

State of emergency remains in Auckland; flooding in Bay of Plenty

It’s Tuesday May, 9 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. We’ll be keeping you up to date on the ongoing weather situation and state of emergency in Auckland. On deck is Stewart Sowman-Lund with support from our news team.

Get in touch and send photos to stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


What you need to know

flood-may-9.jpg

State of emergency remains in Auckland; flooding in Bay of Plenty

It’s Tuesday May, 9 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. We’ll be keeping you up to date on the ongoing weather situation and state of emergency in Auckland. On deck is Stewart Sowman-Lund with support from our news team.

Get in touch and send photos to stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


What you need to know

May 9 2023

Backlash as show goes on for Wu-Tang Clan, despite state of emergency

It’s an indoor show, but fans donned ponchos to get to Spark Arena (Photo: Chris Schulz)

Aucklanders have been told to stay home, a state of emergency has been declared and heavy rain continues to pelt the region – but organisers say a concert by hip-hop veterans Wu-Tang Clan will go ahead. Fans have called the decision “straight BS” and called for it to be postponed or cancelled.

Promoters Live Nation took to Facebook to confirm tonight’s New York State of Mind show at Spark Arena, the first date of a world tour also featuring Nas, would forge ahead with a delayed start time of 9pm. The note encouraged attendees to “plan their travel accordingly so they can make their way to the venue safely”.

The backlash began immediately. “What are you going to do for people who are legitimately stuck where they are due to flooding?” complained one. “Just cancel the bloody concert or reschedule it to this weekend,” said another. “We are stuck in Whangarei and can’t get down with roads closed,” said a third. “Fingers crossed we all get refunds.”

Weather has wreaked havoc at concerts and festivals nationwide in recent months, with Elton John fans gathering at Mt Smart Stadium in January only to be told to go home as heavy rain fell and many parts of Auckland flooded. That weekend, Laneway was also cancelled and Fatboy Slim forced to move indoors. Shapeshifter had three festivals cancelled as rain disrupted their summer plans.

Live Nation has been approached for comment.

It’s an indoor show, but fans donned ponchos to get to Spark Arena (Photo: Chris Schulz)

Flooding, road closures in Bay of Plenty; rain returns to Auckland

Today’s wild weather has passed through the Bay of Plenty region. Severe thunderstorm warnings have just been lifted for Ōpōtiki and Whakatāne, but they brought with them heavy rain, leading to flooding, slips and numerous road closures in the region.

Rotorua experienced 44mm of rain between 5pm and 6pm. At 7pm, a spokesperson for the council told RNZ it had crews responding to 24 incidents caused by flooding or trees falling.

The heavy rain band will now move east, says Metservice, but “changeable, showery conditions are forecast for many places on Wednesday and Thursday as colder air starts moving over the country”.

Meanwhile, the heavy rain has returned to the western suburbs of Auckland, and it’s now raining on the North Shore too.

Watercare has put out an update saying Tāmaki Makaurau’s wastewater network is overwhelmed with rainwater, causing overflows across the region. In the unlikely event any Aucklanders are keen to take a dip, please don’t – black “do not swim” warnings are in place at nearly every beach across the region.

Search for missing student in Whangārei caves suspended

Abbey Caves in Whangārei (Getty)

Police have confirmed the search for a missing school student in the Abbey Caves near Whangārei will be suspended until tomorrow.

The school group included 17 people in total: 15 students and two adults. Just one student remains unaccounted for.

“The search is expected to resume at first light tomorrow and a cordon will remain in place this evening and overnight,” said a police statement this evening.

Superintendent Tony Hill, Northland district commander, says this was a tragic incident. “Our thoughts are with the friends and family of the unaccounted for student and family liaison officers and victim support have measures in place to look after them.”

He added: “The school is also being supported by the Ministry of Education’s traumatic incident team.”

Police would not be speculating on what has occurred while this incident is still unfolding, he said.

Abbey Caves in Whangārei (Getty)

‘Significant disruption and delays’: Auckland commuters face a tough journey home

Auckland commuters trying to get home before another wave of torrential rain hits are facing major jams on city roads and motorways, according to reports, and Auckland Transport is warning of “significant disruption and delays” for all public transport services.

Train services are “slowly resuming operation”, according to an alert sent out by AT, with the southern and western lines operating at reduced frequencies, with speed restrictions in place. The Onehunga line is suspended, but the eastern line is running between Ōtāhuhu and Manukau. Rail replacement buses between Britomart and Ōtāhuhu continue to run, but “are experiencing delays due to congestion”.

Bus journeys in general will be lengthy, with widespread delays and detours in place. Ferries are also delayed and some services cancelled, due to debris in the water.

AT is urging commuters to check Live Departures for the latest updates, and once they get home, stay put.

In some good news, however, “Auckland is on an easing trend” when it comes to rainfall.

Caving incident ‘hugely upsetting’ – principal, mayor speak on missing student

A Whangārei Boys’ High School student remains missing after a group from the school got into trouble when severe weather hit while they were on a caving trip this morning.

The school’s principal has issued a statement about the incident, which took place when a year 11 outdoor education class was on an excursion to Abbey Caves.

“One of our students is currently missing… Search and rescue are currently searching for the young person,” wrote Karen Gilbert-Smith, describing the incident as s”hugely upsetting for all concerned”.

“All members of the outdoor education group were supported at the scene by Search and Rescue and the St John Incident Response team. The students were then returned to WBHS where they received a further medical assessment, and then reunited with their whānau.”

“As a school we are focusing on supporting all whānau, staff and students concerned with this event, and the wider school community, with assistance from iwi and agencies.

“In time we will seek to understand how this situation occurred, but for now I ask that we stay united as a WBHS community and provide support where required.

“School will open tomorrow so we can maintain a sense of routine for our students and staff. We will have support available for all students and staff if they need it.

“My thoughts and aroha are with all concerned, especially the whānau of the young person who is missing.

Meanwhile, Whangārei mayor Vince Cocurullo told RNZ the council was “deeply” concerned about the events at Abbey Caves today.

“Our hearts go out to all those involved.”

He said the caves were not staffed. “They are a natural wilderness area open for all to visit. To the best of our knowledge we have not had a situation like this at the caves before.

“Whenever an event like this occurs, in any environment, multiple organisations are involved in investigations. We will be taking part to identify any areas for change.”

Severe thunderstorm warnings for south Waikato, western Bay of Plenty, Taupō, Rotorua

The day’s wild weather is now moving southeastwards, with Metservice’s weather radar at 3.22pm detecting a line of severe thunderstorms lying from the southern Kaimai Ranges to Mamaku to Ōrākei Kōrako, between Taupō and Rotorua.

The storms were then predicted to move east and lie from Pyes Pa to Rotorua to Ōrākei Kōrako at 3.52pm, and from Oropi to Rotorua to Golden Springs at 4.22pm. They would likely be accompanied by very heavy rain, which could cause surface flooding.

Niwa is forecasting the storms to then move towards Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne later this evening.

Extensive flooding in Northland, roads closed

Flooding in Kaeo (Photo: Facebook)

There has been extensive flooding across Northland, reports RNZ. Several roads are closed in Dargaville, where a sandbagging facility has opened, and a stretch of  SH10 between Omaunu Road in Kaeo and Whangaroa is also closed.

Chairman of Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua Antony Thompson told RNZ that marae in the area were preparing to swing into action.

Flooding in Kaeo (Photo: Facebook)

 

Comedy Festival cancels Auckland shows tonight

From left to right: Bobby Wood, Ruby Esther, Janaye Henry and Sameena Zehra. (Photos: New Zealand International Comedy Festival / Design: Tina Tiller)

Due to the state of emergency declared in Auckland today, the New Zealand International Comedy Festival confirmed in a statement to The Spinoff that it has made the decision to not go ahead with any of the planned shows tonight.

Comedians including Eli Matthewson, Hayley Sproull and James Nokise were expected to open their shows tonight at a range of venues across the city, including Basement Theatre, Q Theatre and The Classic. These shows will instead open on Wednesday.

Ticketholders will be contacted to move to an alternative performance or to process a refund. Wellington shows will proceed as planned.

‘Censored in this house’: Meka Whaitiri delivers personal explanation

Meka Whaitiri in parliament.

In a personal explanation to the house of representatives, Meka Whaitiri has outlined her reasons for defecting from the Labour Party, and implied that she felt “censored” in her previous political home.

“My decision to return back to the people was based on whakapapa and the calling home,” she said. “And I am very pleased to stand in this house to say I have joined a party [te Pāti Māori] that enables the voice of wāhine Māori to be heard and not censored in this house.”

She added: “This house and those in this house, when we talk about a 50-50 gender, I want my voice to be heard, Mr Speaker.”

Meka Whaitiri in parliament.

The speaker, Adrian Rurawhe, had moments earlier thrown Māori Party co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer out of the house after they led a whakawātea for their new parliamentary ally in spite of opposition from some members of parliament. He interrupted Whaitiri during a biographical passage in her address to urge her to focus on “exactly what it is she is explaining” about her status in the house, rather than launching into “a general debate”.

Confusion still surrounds the correspondence between Whaitiri and the speaker, which was deemed sufficient to conclude she was no longer a member of Labour, but insufficient to trigger the “waka jumping” provisions in the Electoral Act. Rurawhe says he will not release the letters but that the MP is welcome to.

Earlier, the speaker confirmed that Elizabeth Kerekere, who quit the Green Party on Friday night, would now sit as an independent MP.

Some councillors learned of state of emergency from media, not mayor

Wayne Brown is the mayor of Auckland. (Image: Tina Tiller)

Some Auckland councillors learned a state of emergency had been announced from the media before they’d been told about it from the mayor or other official channels, The Spinoff understands.

RNZ reported at about 12.48pm that mayor Wayne Brown had declared a state of emergency and delegated his duties to deputy Desley Simpson.

The media outlet later tweeted that they had been given confirmation of this via a text from Brown, who is in Sydney.

But that message wasn’t distributed to other media outlets from the mayor’s office until 1.05pm when a full press release was sent out.

An Auckland councillor told The Spinoff that he too was formally told of the state of emergency at 1.05pm as well, by which time he had already learned of it from earlier media reports.

The Spinoff has asked the mayor’s office to clarify when it first alerted councillors and media of the state of emergency.

Rain eases in much of Auckland – but the worst could be yet to come

The rain has eased in many parts of Auckland, after more than 32mm of it fell between 12 and 1pm, according to Metservice’s rain radar.

But forecasts suggest the worst is still to come. There could be in excess of 40mm of torrential rain an hour this evening, according to Metservice, with the most severe rain due around 7pm, Auckland Emergency Management duty controller Rachel Kelleher said during a press conference this afternoon.

Currently, the storms are moving east towards the Hunua Ranges and Waiheke Island.

Metservice meteorologist Georgina Griffiths told RNZ that Auckland has already seen 90% of its annual rainfall so far this year, and while rain may have eased in the west and central, “enjoy it while it lasts”.

Meanwhile, there have been more than 200 weather-related callouts to emergency services in the Auckland region, including flooding, slips, fallen trees and vehicles trapped in floodwater, according to Fire and Emergency district manager Brad Mosby.

‘We’ve been here before’: Deputy mayor urges Aucklanders to stay safe

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“We’ve been here before haven’t we?” said deputy mayor Desley Simpson as she addressed a press conference this afternoon.

Emergency officials and Simpson fronted media to provide the latest update on the ongoing weather in the supercity.

Simpson said she had been in regular communication with mayor Wayne Brown, who is in Sydney, throughout the morning. “I have promised to keep him updated,” she said. The severe weather was concerning to both of them.

The decision to issue an emergency alert was in order to give a “heads up” about the weather, while the state of emergency was a “precautionary measure to let you know we are taking this seriously”.

She added: “It was a precaution to take you safe.”

The key focus for officials was now to keep clear, accurate and timely advice for Aucklanders. “As this is an emerging and evolving situation, I want to reiterate that people should stay updated from Auckland Emergency Management,” Simpson said.

“Stay safe Aucklanders, please check in on family and friends and remember if you think your life is in danger please call 111.”

MetService’s Georgina Griffiths described Auckland as “pretty soggy” and said the city had already expected 90% of the year’s typical annual rainfall in the first five months of 2023.

Meanwhile, fire and emergency said there had already been over 200 weather-related incidents in Auckland.

Te Pāti Māori co-leaders thrown out of house by speaker

Te Pāti Māori co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi (Getty Images)

The co-leaders of te Pāti Māori have been thrown out of the debating chamber at parliament by the speaker, Adrian Rurawhe. He took the action following a welcome from Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi and a group in the public gallery for Meka Whaitiri, who has quit the Labour Party and intends to stand for te Pāti Māori. Rurawhe said he was sending them from the house because he had been informed by the Māori Party this morning that other parties had agreed that the whakawātea could take place, but was subsequently informed that was not the case.

The whakawātea took place after the prime minister, Chris Hipkins, opened a debate commending the coronation of King Charles III. Following the ejection of the MPs and a speech from Christopher Luxon, the National leader, on the coronation, Meka Whaitiri sought leave to deliver a personal statement. That was denied for the time being by Rurawhe, who said, “we’re in the middle of a debate”.

‘Serious situation’: PM says too early to know extent of Auckland flooding

PM Chris Hipkins fronts a press conference. (Photo: Marty Melville/AFP via Getty Images)

Prime minister Chris Hipkins said it’s too early to know whether today’s flooding in Auckland is as bad as that experienced in January. But he said the “flow-on effects” could be serious.

Speaking on the tiles at parliament before heading into the debating chamber, Hipkins said lessons had been learned from how the anniversary floods were handled and communication at this point had been “much faster” and “more regular”. However, he reiterated that it was a “serious situation” and urged people to follow advice from emergency officials.

Hipkins said he had only received preliminary information on the rescue operation at the Abbey Caves in Northland, but said he had “absolute support for the school community”. More information would be provided once it had been confirmed, said Hipkins.

PM Chris Hipkins fronts a press conference (Photo by MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images)

Pledge to ‘step up support’ from government as Aucklanders face floods

Local government minister Kieran McAnulty at parliament (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The government has committed to “step up support for those affected by flooding in Auckland” following the declaration of a local state of emergency by the mayor, Wayne Brown.

“Nema’s National Coordination Centre has been activated and the government stands ready to provide any support that is needed,” said the minister for emergency management, Kieran McAnulty, in a statement. “Nema have been closely monitoring throughout the course of this event and keeping me up to date. This declaration gives us the ability to coordinate further resources for affected areas … I’d like to acknowledge all the agencies whose staff are working hard to manage the impacts of this server weather. Stay safe and call 111 if you or anyone else is in danger”, he said.

 

Confirmed: State of emergency declared in Auckland

Flooding in Te Atatu on Tuesday morning (Image: Ben Gracewood)

Auckland is officially in a state of emergency as widespread rain batters the city.

In a press release, mayor Wayne Brown, who is currently in Sydney, said a local state of emergency had been declared and confirmed he had delegated his responsibilities and powers to deputy Desley Simpson.

“This morning, at my request, the deputy mayor and I received an urgent phone briefing from Auckland Emergency Management Civil Defence,” said Brown.

“After carefully considering the advice of the duty controller I have decided to declare a precautionary state of local emergency. The decision is based on the lessons we learnt from the Anniversary Auckland floods.

“While I am assured that emergency services are coping with the volume of call outs at the moment, and that they do not require emergency powers, I consider it is necessary to communicate to the public that this is something to take seriously.

“As I am in Sydney on Council business, I have delegated my responsibilities and powers to Desley Simpson, who is now Acting Mayor until I return.”

The state of emergency was reported first by RNZ at about 12.48pm, who said they had been told of it directly via text from mayor Brown. It’s understood RNZ reported the state of emergency, after Brown confirmed it to them, ahead of some within Auckland Council even being informed that the mayor had declared it. The Spinoff was unable to verify the veracity of this report until a press release was issued to all media at 1.05pm.

Earlier, emergency management minister Kieran McAnulty told media: “I’m being kept across the weather event as it unfolds by NEMA. Responses are locally lead and NEMA is supporting as needed.” He will speak shortly alongside prime minister Chris Hipkins.

Flooding closes sections of SH1 in Auckland and Northland; all trains from Britomart suspended

Update 1.40pm: The SH1 section between Esmonde and Northcote Roads has now reopened

Flooding has closed sections of State Highway One on Auckland’s North Shore and further north, says Waka Kotahi.

The section between Esmonde Road and Northcote Road, just to the north of the Harbour Bridge, is now closed in both directions. Meanwhile, flooding and slips have closed the Dome Valley section of SH1 between Warkworth and Wellsford, and the Brynderwyn Hills section between Brynderwyn and Waipū. Travellers are being urged to delay their journeys.

Earlier, surface flooding closed the right lane southbound through the Greenlane interchange on the southern motorway.

Flooding is affecting many other sections of Auckland motorway and Waka Kotahi is urging travellers to avoid the roads.

Flooding is also causing widespread problems on Auckland’s public transport network, with all train services from Britomart now suspended until further notice.

Onehunga and Western train line services remain suspended, meaning train services are only running on the Southern and Eastern Lines between Papakura and Ōtāhuhu and Manukau and Ōtāhuhu, according to Auckland Transport.

At Ōtāhuhu station, travellers are frantically checking the AT and weather apps, trying to figure out how they can get where they’re going, reports The Spinoff’s Shanti Mathias.

“I’m supposed to go to class in the CBD but now I’m hearing there’s a flood and I don’t know what I should do,” an international student called La told The Spinoff.

Transport officers in hi-vis vests are helping people figure out which buses to take. Eastern Line bus replacements are running as normal.

Ōtāhuhu Station (Photo: Shanti Mathias)

In downtown Auckland, there are lengthy queues of people waiting for buses. “It’s absolute carnage down here,” one told The Spinoff.

Commuters queuing for buses in downtown Auckland (Photo: Ben Gracewood)

State of emergency in Auckland, says mayor via text

Wayne Brown is the mayor of Auckland. (Image: Tina Tiller)

Update: A state of emergency has officially been confirmed

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown has reportedly declared a state of emergency in Auckland.

According to RNZ, he’s confirmed it to them via text but the news has not been publicised beyond this. RNZ also reported that deputy mayor Desley Simpson would be taking over the coucil response, with Brown currently in Sydney.

We’ll have more to come if we can confirm it/receive a text from the mayor.

Civil Defence centre opens in Massey

Te Manawa Library in Massey is operating as a Civil Defence Centre, according to emergency management officials.

It can provide stretcher beds, blankets, food, water and welfare support.

The library is located at 11 Kohuhu Lane, Massey (Westgate).

Photos show flooding in Mount Albert, Devonport

(Images: Supplied)

Flash floods aren’t just impacting West Auckland, with photos sent to The Spinoff showing surface water in other parts of the city.

The following images from Spinoff reader Julia show water over car tyres in Mount Albert.

(Images: Supplied)

Meanwhile, in Devonport on the North Shore, the New World car park has flooded with four cars trapped. We’ve been told an announcement came over the store’s live speaker.

Flooding in Devonport (Image: Supplied)

Here in Ellerslie, east of the CBD, the roads are starting to flood and we’ve just unclogged a drain outside our house to stop water from pooling.

Get in touch: stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

School student missing as group rescued from Northland caves

Abbey Caves in Whangārei (Getty)

A student is unaccounted after a high school group got into difficulty at Abbey Caves in Whangārei when torrential downpours hit the region, police have confirmed.

Earlier this morning, RNZ reported that 15 students and a teacher from Whangārei Boys’ High School, along with an instructor, were trapped in the caves.

A police statement said a group has since made it out safely but one student is currently unaccounted for.

“We have Police Search and Rescue and USAR crews responding to the area,” said Superintendent Tony Hill, Northland district commander in the statement.

“The incident is still very much developing and we will provide further updates as they become available. Our thoughts are with the whānau of the missing child, as well as all those involved in the group outing and the school.”

Police continue to advise the public to pay close attention to weather forecasts and emergency management updates given the current weather conditions across the district.

‘We are awaiting advice on declaring state of emergency,’ says Brown after emergency briefing

Wayne Brown signing the state of emergency declaration in January

The weather is expected to “wax and wane” through the day across the Auckland region, with bursts of heavy rainfall likely up until midnight. That’s the message from Rachel Kelleher, Auckland Emergency Management duty controller, speaking after an AEM briefing.

Mayor Wayne Brown attended the briefing from Sydney. He advised in a tweet: “We are awaiting further advice on declaring a state of emergency.”

Speaking to RNZ, Kelleher said rainfall up to 75ml in an hour had been measured, causing serious surface flooding. She warned that while downpours had subsided in some parts of the region, “heavy rain could come back, throughout the afternoon and into tonight”.

She was aware of some people had evacuated their homes in West Auckland, but there were no mandatory evacuation orders in place at present. Evacuation centres would be stood up if required, with details provided on AEM’s website. In the meantime, Aucklanders were urged to “think carefully about whether you need to travel or not”.

Severe thunderstorm warnings now in place for Auckland and Northland

Severe thunderstorm warnings are now in place for Rodney, Gulf, Kaipara, Auckland City, Whangārei, Franklin and Albany, with the storm moving more quickly than forecasts predicted, says Metservice. The warnings were initially not to come into effect until 1pm.

At 11.45 am, the MetService weather radar detected a line of severe thunderstorms lying from Manukau to Pūhoi to Waipū, moving towards the east-northeast. The line is expected to lie from Pūhoi to Waipū at 12.15 pm and from Kawakawa Bay to Hen and Chicken Islands at 12.45pm.

In Northland, the  Metservice weather radar detected severe thunderstorms near Kawakawa, Kaikohe, Kerikeri, Okaihau, Moerewa, Ngawha Springs and Opahi. These severe thunderstorms are moving towards the southeast, and are expected to lie near Whangārei, Hikurangi, Maungatapere, Towai, Purua and Kamo now.

The thunderstorms are expected to be accompanied by torrential rain, which can cause surface and/or flash flooding about streams, gullies and urban areas, and make driving conditions extremely hazardous.

A severe thunderstorm watch remains inplace for the rest of Auckland, the rest of Northland, Great Barrier Island and the Coromandel Peninsula.

Emergency alert issued: ‘Surface flooding across Auckland’

Image: Archi Banal

Civil Defence has issued an emergency mobile alert to Aucklanders as heavy rain and flooding continues to hit the city.

The alert says that heavy rain and thunderstorms are affecting the Auckland region and could continue through until midnight.

“If you need to evacuate, seek shelter with friends and family and take important items with you. Plan your travel carefully, we are likely to see widespread surface flooding across Auckland, including during the afternoon and evening commute,” the alert read.

A tweet response from forecaster Weather Watch criticised emergency officials for the delayed decision to send the emergency alert. “We were alerting Aucklanders three hours ago about this,” it said.

Earlier, mayor Wayne Brown, who is in Sydney, said he may delegate responsibility for the ongoing emergency to his deputy. Auckland Central Chlöe Swarbrick urged Brown to do this.

School group trapped in Whangārei cave, one unaccounted for

rescue.jpg

Updated: 12.22pm

A group of high schoolers on a school trip are being evacuated from the Abbey Caves in Whangārei.

According to RNZ, 15 teens from Whangārei Boys’ High School along with a teacher and an instructor are trapped in the Northland cave. It’s since been reported at least one student is not yet accounted for.

1News has comments from police and emergency services. It’s been reported police are in attendance at the scene and assisting where required. Meanwhile, Fire and Emergency said they were first alerted to the situation at 10.41am this morning. Three crews have been dispatched to the scene.

“The incident is still very much developing and we will provide further updates as they become available. Our thoughts are with the whanau of the missing child, as well as all those involved in the group outing and the school,” superintendent Tony Hill said.

Abbey Caves in Whangārei (Getty)

Chlöe Swarbrick calls on Wayne Brown to delegate powers

Chlöe Swarbrick and Wayne Brown. Photo: Supplied

With Auckland facing heavy weather and flooding, the MP for Auckland Central, Chlöe Swarbrick, has urged the mayor, Wayne Brown, to delegate emergency powers to his deputy, Desley Simpson. Brown is presently in Sydney for meetings relating to light rail.

“Please minimise travel and ensure you have your evacuation plans ready, e te whānau,” said Swarbrick in a social media post. “I’m in touch with frontline emergency services, have requested to the Mayor he delegate emergency powers to Dep Mayor Desley Simpson and I’ll get a briefing shortly which I’ll share info from.”

Brown faced criticisms during floods in January for being too slow in declaring a state of emergency.

A statement from the mayor’s office 20 minutes ago said Brown had “been briefed on the developing situation in Auckland and is in regular telephone contact with Auckland Emergency Management and the deputy mayor” and that he would “delegate powers Simpson as necessary”. He was also “urging AEM and Auckland Transport to provide frequent, clear communication”.

Chlöe Swarbrick and Wayne Brown. Photo: Supplied

Surface flooding causes ‘multiple crashes’; bus, train delays

Hop key tags are popular on trains (Image: Supplied by AT)

Waka Kotahi has reported “multiple crashes” across the Auckland highway network as a result of flash flooding. “Please delay your journey or take extra care,” the agency tweeted at about 11.30am. “Please do not drive into flood sections of road.”

Meanwhile, numerous delays and cancellations have been reported by Auckland Transport. No train services are operating between New Lynn and Henderson, while the western and Onehunga lines have been suspended “until further notice”.

Auckland Transport said that scheduled buses will accept rail tickets and hop cards for people who normally take the train.

A number of West Auckland bus services have also been detoured due to severe flooding.

Wayne Brown in Sydney, urges ‘frequent, clear communication’ from officials

wayne-flood.jpg

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown isn’t in the country at the moment as severe rain batters the city.

A message from his office confirmed Brown was in Sydney for a meeting with Auckland Light Rail and engineering firm Arup.

A spokesperson said he had been briefed on the developing situation and was in regular phone contact with both emergency officials and the deputy mayor, Desley Simpson. He said he would consider delegating powers to Simpson “if necessary”.

The mayor urged residents to avoid floodwaters and drains, but “remain calm and vigilant” and to follow emergency management advice.

After facing widespread criticism for a lack of visibility during the Auckland flooding back in January, Brown urged both emergency management officials and Auckland Transport to “provide frequent, clear communication”.

Flooding forces school closures in Auckland

Flooding in Te Atatu on Tuesday morning (Image: Ben Gracewood)

Torrential rain has forced the sudden closure of at least two West Auckland schools.

Don Buck Primary near Massey posted on Facebook that all students would be required to return home from 11.30am this morning.

“We are experiencing a large amount of flooding due to the current rain conditions,” the post read. “This is making the school unsafe for our children to be at.”

Sunnyvale School in Henderson similarly asked for urgent pick-ups. “Gregg Place and Millbrook are also flooded please come quickly we are evacuating,” a post on Facebook read.

On Stuff’s live blog, parent Hannah May Lee described her sudden school pick-up as wild. She said a fire engine had arrived at the same time and may need to help with evacuations.

Main West Auckland road flooding as forecast warns of thunderstorms

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Parts of West Auckland are already starting to flood ahead of predicted thunderstorms and even heavier rain later today.

Photos show cars crashing through flood waters on Te Atatu Road, just north of the main shops on the peninsula.

For many in the community, it will bring back memories of recent severe weather such as the anniversary weekend floods and Cyclone Gabrielle which cut off parts of West Auckland.

Cars on Te Atatu Road (Photo: Ben Gracewood)

According to Metservice, the current deluge isn’t going to stop soon. A heavy rain watch is in place until midnight tonight for Auckland including Great Barrier Island and Coromandel Peninsula. Around 60 to 90 millimetres of rain is expected, while the forecaster said thunderstorms and downpours of 25 to 40 mm per hour, or more, are possible in localised areas.

Heavy rain is likely to clear Auckland CBD around 9pm.

Further north, a severe thunderstorm warning is in place for Kaipara, Whangārei and Rodney with warnings of torrential rain and flash flooding.

Auckland Civil Defence shared an article yesterday advising people to have a bad weather plan. This was also shared by the mayor Wayne Brown. Both have been approached for comment this morning on the developing situation. Emergency officials today warned that the “unpredictable nature” of the current weather will make it difficult to anticipate where and when heavy downpours will occur.

If you have photos of heavy rain or flooding, contact stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

Flooding on Te Atatu Road (Photo: Ben Gracewood)

New $40m bridge for damaged Coromandel highway announced

Michael Wood (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The government will spend between $30 million and $40 million reopening a main highway in the Coromandel.

A new bridge will replace parts of state highway 25A damaged by a recent slip triggered by severe weather. Transport minister Michael Wood said this was the “fastest, most resilient way forward” and said the new connection would be opened by early next year.

“This road is a lifeline for many people who travel across the peninsula to work or school. It also brings people from all over New Zealand onto the peninsula every summer, keeping businesses and the local economy afloat,” Wood said. “Currently increased travel time and cost is causing huge disruption.”

Waka Kotahi has already engaged with the construction industry, said Wood, and started the procurement process. By early June, there will be a contractor ready to start construction. “I know that for many in the community this will be a long time to wait to have this key connection restored. We’ve been working hard with the Thames-Coromandel District Council to repair and improve local roads ahead of winter and can confirm that the Tapu-Coroglen road will be open to light vehicles next month providing some extra connectivity across the peninsula. We’re also continuing work to repair and fully reopen other key roads such as SH25.”

The work is being funded through a $250 million “top-up” to the National Land Transport Programme fund.

The Bulletin: School strikes to go ahead despite MoE salary offer

An 11th-hour attempt by the Ministry of Education to stave off industrial action by teachers has failed. More than 20,000 high school teachers will strike this week, beginning with schools across the entire South Island today. The ministry last night increased its offer on the base salary for all teachers, including a maximum base salary for top teachers of $100,000 by 2024 – around $7000 more than they currently get.

The PPTA says the national executive will consider the offer later this week, but what’s on the table is less than the cost of living increase they want and the strike action is still going ahead. After today’s South Island stopwork, the rolling strikes move to Wellington and the lower half of the South Island (including Hawke’s Bay) on Wednesday, and the rest of the North Island on Thursday.

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Meka Whaitiri breaks silence on decision to quit Labour: ‘It’s been a calling’

Meka Whaitiri (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

About a week on from her shock defection, former Labour minister Meka Whaitiri has finally spoken out.

In a live interview with TVNZ’s Breakfast from what appeared to be her new office, the now-independent MP was asked why she chose to leave her party of 10 years.

“It’s always been a calling of mine,” she said. “It’s been my calling to return back to an unapologetically Māori party… it was a calling deep in my puku. The timing was right for me and my whānau.”

Asked whether there was a specific reason, Whaitiri again signalled her move was just based on a calling. “Our people understand the actions I’ve taken,” she said.

The prime minister has still not had a conversation with Whaitiri. Chris Hipkins told a post-cabinet press conference yesterday that his former colleague still had his phone number if she wanted to have a chat, but it was probably a bit late now.

However, Newsroom’s Jo Moir has reported today that Labour’s Māori caucus has invited Whaitiri to speak. “She’s expected to make a statement and take questions from the media ahead of question time, where highly-orchestrated points of order will be called to mark Whaitiri’s crossing of the floor,” Moir reported.

Whaitiri said she chose to speak only with “trusted sources”, which included her family but not the prime minister.

On Newstalk ZB this morning, the prime minister was asked about this specific remark. Hipkins suggested Mike Hosking try and get Whaitiri on the show to ask her instead.