Cyclone Gabrielle: Nine regions now in state of emergency

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for Monday, February 13 – bringing you the latest news on Cyclone Gabrielle’s arrival to New Zealand. On deck: Stewart Sowman-Lund, with support from our entire news team.

Get in touch via stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

What you need to know


Cyclone Gabrielle: Nine regions now in state of emergency

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for Monday, February 13 – bringing you the latest news on Cyclone Gabrielle’s arrival to New Zealand. On deck: Stewart Sowman-Lund, with support from our entire news team.

Get in touch via stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

What you need to know

Feb 13 2023

Bay of Plenty ninth region to declare state of emergency

Image: Archi Banal

The Bay of Plenty has entered into a state of emergency, the ninth North Island region to do so since Cyclone Gabrielle arrived on our doorstep.

Like with all regions, Civil Defence has reminded locals to monitor the most up to date information via the regional website or Facebook page.

A full list of evacuation centres in the region can also be found on the Facebook page.

An emergency alert has been sent to some residents in the region warning of the risk from serious flooding.

Confirmed measles case in NZ

The measles virus (image: getty)

A measles case has been confirmed in New Zealand for the first time since the 2019 outbreak. The person is an adult living in Auckland. The person was infected overseas but did not become infectious until after arriving back in New Zealand. The confirmed case is now isolating at home and contact tracing is underway.

The person travelled to a festival in Waikato on public transport and visited various public spaces between February 5 and 11.

“Measles is a very serious illness that spreads very quickly. It is much more contagious than Covid-19, particularly among people who aren’t immune,” said Te Whatu Ora spokesperson Dr Nick Chamberlain.

“We ask anyone present at these exposure events to stay alert to symptoms of measles and check if they are immune. You should ring Healthline on 0800 611 116 if you aren’t immune and may have been exposed.”

Symptoms can include a fever, cough, runny nose and sore and watery “pink” eyes. These are followed by a blotchy rash. If you catch measles, you’re infectious four days before and until four days after the rash appears.

If you have symptoms and need to visit your GP or an after-hours clinic phone ahead first to limit the risk of the virus being spread to other people.

“It was inevitable that we would have further cases of measles in New Zealand and have been preparing for this for some time,” said Chamberlain.

“We are all aware of how infectious measles is from the last outbreak in Auckland and Northland. The most important thing that people can do to protect themselves is to ensure they and their Tamariki are immunised. Vaccination is safe and effective.”

People are considered immune if they have received two doses of measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine, have had a measles illness previously, or were born before 1969. It is safe to have an extra MMR vaccination if you can’t prove you have had two doses. The MMR vaccine is free.

If you are unsure if you are immune and may have been exposed, you should talk to your doctor or phone Healthline. Symptoms normally take 7-14 days to develop after being exposed to someone with measles. If you are immunocompromised and have concerns that you may be a contact or were at any of the below exposure events, please contact Healthline or your doctor/GP.

If you are infected with measles, it’s important to isolate as soon as possible until four days after the rash appears.

Exposure events in Auckland where members of the public were at risk of catching measles include:

Date Time Location Advice
06/02 18.30 – 19.00 Countdown, Quay Street People should watch out for symptoms and call Healthline on 0800 611 116 if they aren’t immune to measles and may have been exposed.

It’s recommended you also check your immunity and get vaccinated if you were born after 1 Jan 1969 and haven’t had two MMR doses (or have no record of getting these).

09/02 14.00 -15.30 Pharmacy At Quay Park

68 Beach Road, Auckland CBD

Same as above

Exposure events in the Waikato and Tauranga where members of the public were at risk of catching measles include:

Date Time Location Advice
05/02 – 06/02 Various, checked out at 10am on 06/02 Blue Haven Hotel, Tauranga Same as above.

05/02 13.00 – 14.00 Lolo Authentic Turkish kitchen, Mount Maunganui Same as above.
05/02 14.30 Charter bus to ‘That Weekend’ festival Same as above.
05/02 15.30 – 23.30 ‘That weekend’ festival Same as above.
05/02 23.00 – 00.30 Charter bus to Tauranga from ‘That weekend’ festival Same as above.
06/02 11.00 – 12.30 The General Cafe, Mt Maunganui Same as above.

Magnitude 4.4 earthquake shakes Tairāwhiti amid power outages


But wait, there’s more. As Cyclone Gabrielle continues to down trees and powerlines and prompt evacuations across the upper North Island, an earthquake has rattled Tairāwhiti on the east coast. The shake, described as both “moderate” and “light shaking” was felt at 7.45pm.

There are currently about 600 power outages in Tairāwhiti, with power not expected to be returned in some areas until as late as the weekend and the weather worsening overnight.

Precarious century-old tower prompts evacuations in Auckland

The shot tower in Mount Eden

There are reports of at least two separate evacuations taking place across Auckland now, just ahead nightfall.

Cyclone Gabrielle has well and truly arrived in the city, though the weather’s intensity is predicted to get worse overnight.

Auckland Emergency Management has established a temporary exclusion zone around the Colonial Ammunition Company Shot Tower in Mount Eden, prompting the evacuation – or partial evacuation – of a number of residential and commercial buildings.

It’s due to the risk of the 109-year-old steel structure, which is 30 metres tall, falling directly into a nearby apartment block.

“I have directed the evacuation of buildings surrounding the historic Colonial Ammunition Company Shot Tower based on engineering advice from Tonkin & Taylor, and MetService, earlier this evening,” said Auckland Emergency Management’s controller Mace Ward.

“This is an understandably upsetting situation for these people, however the risk of injury as a result of the tower collapsing, is unacceptable.”

Fifty apartments, totalling potentially hundreds of residents, will likely be forced out tonight.

Meanwhile, on the North Shore of Auckland, there are reports of a tree smashing straight into a house, prompting evacuations and the risk of additional damage. The Herald has reported that residents on Rosecamp Avenue near Birkenhead were being evacuated earlier this evening.

A nearby resident has told The Spinoff that it looks like one of the large pine trees has snapped and is hanging there. The area is particularly green, and additional collapses are possible. Several large trees at Charcoal Bay, which is just beneath Rosecamp Road, have been looking precarious for some time and a walking track has already been closed due to falling debris.

Residents will be moved to a Civil Defence centre if they require accommodation and at least one fire truck is on the scene to assist.

Know more? Contact stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

A fallen pine at Charcoal Bay, just beneath Rosecamp Road in the Auckland suburb of Birkdale in February 2021 (Image: Facebook)

Auckland power outages up to about 22,000


The number of power outages in Auckland has risen to 22,000 as of 6pm this evening, as Cyclone Gabrielle bears down on the city.

Vector said the worsening weather had prompted the rise in cuts, and they expected the number without power to continue fluctuating.

“This means some families will need to prepare for a night without power. We know this is not only frustrating, but can be upsetting for some people, and we thank them for their patience and understanding,” a statement read.

It means we’re now pushing 60,000 households without power across the North Island, though the exact number is unknown, with about 30,000 homes in the dark in Northland alone.

Vector said its staff were continuing to work in terrible conditions as they attempted to get power back up and running.

Interislander ferry briefly breaks down

Cruising south on the Interislander (image: supplied).

The Aratere Interislander ferry temporarily broke down this evening after losing power near the entrance to the Tory Channel, it has been reported.

According to Stuff, it was the 3.45pm sailing from Wellington to Picton. After floating adrift for a while, the engine was restarted at 6.30pm.

According to the harbourmaster, the ferry has detoured via the Queen Charlotte sound.

It comes just two weeks after the Kaitaki ferry lost power during stormy conditions off the coast of Wellington, drifting towards the rocks and prompting the urgent donning of lifejackets.

The Spinoff has approached KiwiRail for comment.

Emergency services respond to lifting roofs in Auckland, landslide in Coromandel

Fire engines outside the Cordis (photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Fire and emergency services say the number of call-outs continues to grow in response to Cyclone Gabrielle across Northland, Auckland and Coromandel, with more than 300 storm-related incidents over the course of the day.

Among those priorities, said Fenz in a statement, were incidents in Auckland that included a collapsing water tower, people becoming trapped in a car and roofs being lifted in gusts of wind.

In Kaipara District, there have been evacuations after floodwater entered a house, while a tree fell on a car.

This afternoon, two fire units were dispatched to Hahei in the Coromandel after a landslide fell into a house. Residents were successfully evacuated. Crews are also assisting in evacuations in the Bay of Plenty.

The Coromandel continues to face widespread power outages, with PowerCo reporting more than 10,000 homes without electricity late this afternoon, and more than 31,000 customers having lost power at some point over the last 24 hours.

Ongoing dangers mean “unfortunately most of the customers who are currently off will remain off overnight”, said a PowerCo spokesperson. Customers affected are concentrated mostly in Whitianga, Tairua, Thames, Whangamatā, Paeroa and Waihi.

Kia ora Auckland, please bring in your bins


Bring in your bins. They won’t be collected.

That’s it. That’s the update.

Auckland Grammar headmaster responds to critics of decision to keep school open

Auckland Grammar School.

The headmaster of Auckland Grammar, Tim O’Connor, has defended his decision to open the school to students today while seemingly every other school in the city closed in keeping with the recommendation of the Ministry of Education. “We saw no reason to close,” he told Newstalk ZB. The school ran on a condensed timetable, from 9am to 2pm. “I have a responsibility… under the Health and Safety at Work Act to provide everyone with a safe environment, and all the information I had said that it was going to be safe to open, so why wouldn’t we?”

Schools were being closed much too readily, he said. “Post-Covid we seem to have got into a habit where it’s acceptable to close schools unilaterally,” he said, adding that mandatory closures after floods a fortnight ago were too hasty. “I really do think we’ve got to a point where we’re sending subconscious messages to students across this country, and to parents, that their education or their son or daughter’s education isn’t actually that important any more, because it’s [become] just so acceptable to close schools and say: go online.”

600 households mandatorily evacuated in Bay of Plenty; roads closed

The scene at Ohope beach, via surf webcam

With high tide at 1.30am, low-lying areas near Ōpōtiki and Ōhope are subject to evacuation orders. “We are expecting large sea swells and inundation along low lying areas of Ōpōtiki’s coastline,” said the district council’s response controller, Gerard McCormack. “We are taking action now to avoid a scramble in the middle of the night as the situation worsens.”

The affected parts of the eastern Bay of Plenty district are Ohiwa Spit, Kutarere, the Tirohanga Motor Camp, Opape, Torere, Maraenui, Whanarua Bay, Waihau Bay, Raukokore, and Whangaparaoa.

“These properties and their residents are being contacted directly by Civil Defence staff and fire services,” said McCormack. “We will be calling and door knocking throughout the afternoon. We expect to have called or contacted 450-500 households by this evening. We also have Defence Force staff available in Ōpōtiki to assist if necessary … If you are in these areas and have not yet been notified to evacuate, please leave as soon as possible. Take your grab bag and pets with you and evacuate to friends and family. If this is not an option, we have several evacuation centres available.” More information is here.

The Whakatāne District Council has issued a mandatory evacuation order for about 100 homes, including those in West End Ōhope, up to and including Beach Point Apartment complex, and nine low-lying houses on Harbour Road, Port Ōhope. More details here.

Evacuations are also under way in Tairāwhiti district. More here.

State Highway 35 from Ōpōtiki to Gisborne will be closed to traffic from 7pm tonight, as will SH2 from Napier to Wairoa.

The scene at Ohope beach, via surf webcam

Rail closures extended, some in South Island; Interislander sailings cancelled

A station where the doors will always open. Photo: Getty Images

KiwiRail has announced that the closure of the rail network north of Marton will be extended until tomorrow. As the storm travels south, lines will also be closed around Napier, Taranaki, Palmerston North and to Waikanae. The Wellington rail network will remain open. The impacts extend to the South Island, where the line between Picton and Christchurch will be closed on Tuesday.

“If its safe to do so, we will have track inspection teams out across the Auckland Metro Network and the other North Island rail lines tomorrow morning,” said KiwiRail’s Siva Sivapakkiam. “Once we have an understanding of damage caused by the weather and the repairs required, we will be able to look at reopening lines. At best, this would not happen before tomorrow afternoon.”

Interislander ferries will not operate for 24 hours from 2am on Tuesday. Twelve sailings are cancelled.

The storm fatigue is real in Thames/Coromandel

(Image: Facebook)

Coromandel-Thames Civil Defence controller Garry Towler told RNZ that they’ve been in state of activated emergency management for five weeks this year, with two days off. Cyclone Gabrielle is the area’s fifth severe weather event for 2023. 

People in risk-prone areas of the Thames/Coromandel region were asked yesterday to be ready to self-evacuate. Evacuation centres have been open since 4pm on Sunday and are ready to take people. 

According to PowerCo’s outage tracker, 11,194 properties are now without power. PowerCo covers the Coromandel Peninsula, South Waikato, the Bay of Plenty and Tauranga. Power outages are now being reported in the Bay of Plenty in Papamoa. 

The Kauaeranga River, which runs down off the Coromandel Ranges and into the Firth of Thames has broken its banks. Hauraki District declared a state of emergency this afternoon. 

(Image: Facebook)

NIWA has tweeted that Cyclone Gabrielle is producing record storm surge. Storm surge is an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tides.

Recordings from a Whitianga monitoring station show a storm surge of 0.7 metres & rising. 

Areas along the coastline of Whangamata and Whitianga are flooded. 

(Image: Facebook)

Roads in and out of the area have been badly damaged this year and many are now closed or down to one lane. In a 3pm update, the Thames-Coromandel District Council has listed eight roads as closed, eight roads that are down to one lane and five sections of SH25 as closed.

Programme for first week back at parliament juggled after Cyclone Gabrielle

The debating chamber at parliament. Photo: Parliament.nz

With mass cancellation of flights and other disruptions leaving a number of MPs, including the prime minister, stuck in the upper half of the North Island, the House of Representatives schedule has been shuffled around. While the prime minister’s statement and responses from other party leaders had been planned for Tuesday, that will now take place on Wednesday, according to a statement from the office of the leader of the house, Grant Robertson.

Chris Hipkins’ first parliamentary question time as prime minister, originally scheduled for Wednesday, will now take place on Thursday.

The house will still resume tomorrow, kicking off with a motion on the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria followed by a ministerial statement on weather emergencies. Government business will follow. Tama Potaka’s maiden statement has been postponed.

The Business Committee has agreed that MPs unable to travel to Wellington owing to disruptions will be considered present for voting purposes.

Waikato district and Hauraki declare states of emergency


Waikato district council and Hauraki council have each declared a state of emergency at 3.38pm for an initial period of seven days in preparation for the impacts of Cyclone Gabrielle.

“The decision to declare was made with the safety of the public forefront of mind,” said Waikato district mayor Jacqui Church.

“With the worst of the weather due to hit overnight, we want to ensure that we are ready to respond taking whatever action necessary to keep our people safe.”

The decision was made based on modelling and a risk assessment which indicates several areas of high risk, including low lying areas near the Waikato river at Port Waikato.

However, council has echoed the sentiment from Auckland Emergency Management in urging residents not to wait for authorities to tell them when they need to evacuate: “If there is surface flooding in your area and you see rising water, do not wait for official warnings. Head for higher ground and stay away from floodwater.”

Waikato residents have been reminded to avoid walking, swimming or driving in floodwater, and to call 111 if someone’s life is in danger.

Self-evacuated residents that are unable to seek shelter with friends and whānau should keep an eye on the council website for a list of community-led centres available across the district. Further centres are on standby and can be activated if there is a demand for their services.

If you or someone you know needs support, notices any issues with roading or has questions, contact Waikato District Council on 0800 492 452.

$11.5m cyclone support package announced: ‘We’re not out of the woods yet’



Another $11.5 million will be provided to flood-stricken regions as they prepare to deal with any further impacts from Cyclone Gabrielle.

It includes $4m for providers to make sure they can meet increased demand provoked by the flooding and cyclone, $1m for food banks to replenish stocks, $2m for community groups, a $4m expansion to the scope of Community Connectors and $500,000 ring-fenced for the needs of disabled people.

The new funding has been reallocated from unspent money set aside for the Covid response.

Deputy prime minister Carmel Sepuloni said the demand for support was exceeding funding available for particular groups to respond to the needs of the community. “Today’s announcement is another part of the government’s ongoing response as we continue to support Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland and impacted regions,” she said.

“This support package will provide immediate relief for individuals and families, bespoke support for disabled people like transport assistance, as well as support for the voluntary sector who continue to be at the heart of their communities and our response.”

Chris Hipkins speaks at post-cabinet press conference

Sepuloni reiterated the message from officials that the country was “not out of the woods yet” and that the extreme weather event was still unfolding. “Our focus remains on the most affected communities including Māori, Pacific, disabled, youth and our ethnic communities, and the organisations and groups that work to support them.”

Cabinet met remotely today, with prime minister Chris Hipkins left stranded in Auckland due to a flurry of flight cancellations in out and out of the city. He’s aiming to return to Wellington tomorrow for the re-opening of parliament.

Speaking at a post-cabinet press conference, Hipkins said the latest advice was still that the situation was likely to “get worse before it gets better” and people should have a plan to evacuate ready to go. “Civil Defence centres have been set up across the top of the North Island and they are ready to go.”

The start of the year has been incredibly difficult for many, said Hipkins. “I want to acknowledge how hard many [people] are doing it.” Many families just haven’t been able to catch a break, said Hipkins. He hoped the new package announced today would help those most at need. “Nearly 25,000 people have so far been assisted with food, clothing, accommodation and bedding. People have lost their homes and their vehicles.”

While Hipkins will spend tomorrow morning in Auckland, he has a busy week of other engagements schedule. He’ll be speaking to UK PM Rishi Sunak tomorrow and later in the week will have a conversation with Canada’s Justin Trudeau. He’s also set to meet with Princess Anne who is visiting the country. On Friday, he’s expecting to back in Auckland.

New poll puts Labour and National neck and neck

Chris Hipkins and Christopher Luxon.

A new poll by Curia for the Taxpayers Union has Labour up 2.7 points and National down by 2.8 points, landing the two major parties in a dead heat on 34.4% apiece. A strong showing for Act (11.7%, up 0.9), especially compared with the Greens (7.8%, down 2.8), would mean the parties of the right could govern together, though by the slimmest of margins, with a likely 61 of 120 seats.

The poll, conduced in the week to February 9, underscores the challenge for National leader Christopher Luxon, however. His net favouribility has fallen by four points to -5% while the new Labour leader and prime minister, Chris Hipkins, debuts with +27%. Jacinda Ardern’s final showing on that score was -1%. Despite Act’s strong showing, David Seymour falls by seven points to -11%.

In the preferred prime minister stakes, Hipkins leads on 30% with Luxon on 26%. Ardern registers 9% while Semyour is on 8%.

Here’s how close it is, eight months out …

‘Have a plan to leave’: Aucklanders warned the worst is still to come


Auckland Emergency Management has advised Aucklanders to be prepared to leave their homes if required this evening.

“We’re certainly not out of the woods yet,” said deputy controller Rachel Kelleher. “I can’t stress this enough: please have a plan to leave if you see water levels rising around you. Do not wait to be told to leave if you think you’re in danger.”

Georgina Griffiths from MetService said that the city is currently “in a bit of a break, or a pause” from the worst of the weather, however the heaviest rainfall is forecast from this afternoon. No real impacts have been observed yet.

“We do not expect everyone to see the high intensity falls, it will be pockets of Auckland. If you see some heavy rain rates, unfortunately because we are so saturated we will expect to see localised impacts, flooding or slips,” she said.

“Not everyone will see it and if you wake up tomorrow and the rain has stopped and you haven’t had those flooding or slips, well done.” Great Barrier Island, in particular, is likely to cop the worst of the wind and rain due to its position directly in Gabrielle’s path.

While Auckland has so far escaped fairly lightly, other parts of the country have not been so lucky. We have an update from Northland, where thousands remain without power, here.

Also at this afternoon’s press conference was Auckland mayor Wayne Brown, who delivered a brief statement before answering two questions from the media. He then had to leave to assist with another issue, the mayor said.

“The next 24 hours will be challenging for all Aucklanders. We’ve just heard the latest forecast and please pay attention to it,” said Brown. “Staff at the emergency management centres have been on the ground for several days and nights now.”

The mayor reminded people to stay calm and try not to panic. “As long as it’s safe, please stay at home. You will be notified when it is safe to go out. If your home is flooded you must evacuate immediately.”

The prime minister had offered the full support of the government to Auckland, reiterated Brown.

Asked what exactly he was off to do now, Brown said his skills as an engineer would be useful on the grounds to a team needing assistance. “I’m off to do drains,” he said.

‘Trees picked up, thrown through lines, poles smashed, whole lines brought down’


The CEO of Northpower, which operates the electricity network across the Whangarei and Kaipara districts of Northland, has given an update on efforts to bounce back from the ongoing impacts of Cyclone Gabrielle. “We’ve been hit pretty hard in the north, we’ve got about a third of our customers off. This is huge for us, we haven’t seen anything like it since Cyclone Bola days, for those who can remember, back in the late 80s,” said Andrew McLeod.

“About half of our key lines have damage of one sort of another. A lot of it is trees. We’re seeing trees picked up, thrown through lines. Poles smashed, whole lines brought down. So it’s a lot of work to rebuild it. We will get on to the easy stuff today … but the reality is a lot of the damage is so severe that parts of our network will take many days to fix.”

Damage in Northland. Images: Northpower

Further north, the latest update from Top Energy NZ is that “damage is extensive with lines down, broken poles, fallen trees and slips. We are bracing for worse weather to come with winds and heavy rains buffeting all sides of the network.”

Across the Northland region as a whole, around 30,000 homes and businesses have lost power.



Watch live: Wayne Brown, Civil Defence hold emergency briefing

Wayne Brown surveys January’s flood damage in Auckland (Photo: Lynn Grieveson/Getty Images)

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown will be joined by Civil Defence officials for today’s second live briefing on the evolving Cyclone Gabrielle situation.

While our largest city has so far not felt the full brunt of the storm, earlier today locals were warned to prepare for a wet and windy night. Parts of the city in the north have been without power today, with about 16,000 Auckland households currently in the dark – and 55,000 houses overall impacted by the storm.

Tune into the briefing below and we’ll have full coverage after 2pm.

Preparations underway at emergency shelters across Auckland


The mood was calm at the Mount Albert Senior Citizen’s Hall, a pop-up emergency shelter location, when The Spinoff visited an hour ago. A number of redeployed library and council staff have set up to provide hot drinks, biscuits, and assistance to anyone who needs it; the team were creating a roster to assign duties for the afternoon.

In the January 27 floods, nearby Alberton Ave experienced some of the city’s most severe flooding, including damage to a supermarket, which remains closed. It’s not clear which areas will be impacted by heavy downpours expected this afternoon. “This is intended to be a temporary shelter,” said Nick Bishop, who has been setting up the site since 6am this morning.

The centre is waiting on deliveries of food and blankets, and also had a visit from local MP (and former prime minister) Jacinda Ardern this morning.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern)

“We’re not sure how many people will come,” said Bishop, after filling out a report on behalf of someone requesting temporary housing. Local people contacting Auckland Emergency Management looking for temporary shelter will be directed to the hall.

There are over 30 Civil Defence Centres, community hubs and shelter locations around Auckland. For a full list, or to find your local, go here.

window with a handwritten sign reading 'emergency shelter here'

Air NZ flights to resume from Auckland mid-morning Tuesday; 509 flights cancelled

Turboprops have been placed in storage for the worst of the cyclone. Image: Supplied

Air New Zealand has announced that the latest weather predictions mean flights to and from Auckland airport will resume earlier than planned, with jet services commencing mid-morning Tuesday and Turboprops from mid-afternoon. A total of 509 flights have been cancelled in response to Cyclone Gabrielle, the airline said in a statement, with 10,000 international customers’ plans impacted and 6,500 still awaiting rebooking. Eleven new domestic flights have been added to the schedule, with more to come.

Turboprops have been placed in storage for the worst of the cyclone. Image: Supplied

Of disrupted international passengers, Air New Zealand’s Leanne Geraghty said: “Rebooking is well under way with around 6,500 customers left to be rebooked as of this morning. Customers are currently being rebooked onto the next available service to give them certainty they have a flight booked. Because flights are very full, some customers may receive a notification saying they won’t depart for up to 20 days after their original booking. We want to assure those customers we now have teams working to get them on an earlier flight – it’s our top priority. As we did during the Auckland flooding, we will be adding larger aircraft to routes, working with our star alliance partners, converting cargo flights to passenger flights and adding additional services where possible into the ports where we need them the most”.

The flight from New York, which paused in Rarotonga in response to weather forecasts will leave tomorrow morning. The latest alerts are here.

Beware of any hoax evacuation messages

Pro: makes you feel like a maverick. Con: huge pain in the arse. (Photo: SSPL/Getty Images)

It’s not just hoax images of jumping marlins doing the rounds today. The Herald has reported that a fake text message has been sent to some Whakatāne and Ōhope residents incorrectly advising they must self-evacuate before midnight tonight.

Of course, some residents in flood-impacted areas have been advised to evacuate (or be prepared to do so). However, the local council has confirmed there is no mandatory evacuation in place for anyone in the Whakatāne district.

“Council urges the community to stay updated with official council information via our website and Facebook page,” said local controller Nicholas Woodley.

This is a timely reminder to make sure you are accessing information from official sources (we’re doing our best to compile the most up to date resources). The fewer people out on the roads, the easier it will be for emergency services to get to people in need of assistance.

Footage shows power of Cyclone Gabrielle

Cyclone Gabrielle is continuing on track, with Auckland now starting to feel the high winds that have battered the upper North Island overnight.

Footage and photos shared to social media from those who have already been hit shows the impact of the storm.

If you have any images, videos or stories to share – please get in touch with us.

More power outages hit Auckland

Cyclone Gabrielle barrels towards Aotearoa in February 2023 (via earth.nullschool.net)

The number of households and businesses without power in Auckland has crept up to 16,000, according to the latest update from Vector.

“Cyclone Gabrielle continues to batter the electricity network in the Auckland region and crews are putting in a huge effort to restore power, where this can be done safely,” is the latest advice. “As of 10.30am, 16,000 homes and businesses were without power, mainly in the region north of Orewa. Thousands more have been restored and the number of outages will continue to fluctuate as we get power back on in some areas, only for more outages to occur. The strong winds mean that at times our crews have had to stop aerial work, involving equipment such as cherry pickers, because it is too dangerous.”

It added: “In some areas we are finding multiple faults on the same line, which slows down the restoration process, and we are facing access issues in some rural areas. Near Warkworth, for example, we need to organise an excavator to reach an area where four poles have been damaged and our trucks are unable to get close. The recent flooding in the Auckland area brings its own challenges, with a greater likelihood of trees falling on power lines and poles being affected by movement in the sodden, unstable land.”

There are at last report 10,500 outages in the Far North, 18,500 in Whangarei/Kaipara region, 2,500 across the Counties Energy area and more than 7,000 across the Thames-Coromandel and Hauraki regions, as well as about half a dozen reports of storm-related outages in parts of Tairawhiti. It leaves the tally of current Gabrielle-linked outages at around 55,000.

Power outages impacting mobile sites

cell cite

Spark, Vodafone and 2Degrees have confirmed that power outages are impacting their mobile networks. Minister for emergency management Kieran McAnulty and Acting Civil Defence Emergency Management acting director Roger Ball also confirmed 58,000 people are now without power and it could take days to restore.

Vodafone CEO Jason Paris confirmed via a tweet that 29 mobile sites have power outages in Northland while 12 are currently impacted in Auckland. Paris said generators are on hand and being deployed. As many of the impacted sites are in remote or rural areas, access is tough.

In a banner on its website, Spark says it “currently has a number of mobile sites which have lost mains power and battery reserves due to impacts from Cyclone Gabrielle. These sites are difficult to access with the current conditions. Our teams are doing everything possible to keep our customers connected during this time whilst ensuring the safety of our teams on the ground.”

2Degrees tweeted last night that they only had a few sites impacted and were working to get these sites back online as soon as it’s safe for our staff. 

You can check outages via the coverage maps which isn’t all that useful if you have no internet or mobile reception. Speaking to someone living just south of Kaeo in Northland this morning, they confirmed mobile reception was very poor. 




Hipkins stuck in Auckland ahead of parliament reopening

Chris Hipkins speaks in Auckland on Feb 12 (Photo: Screenshot TVNZ)

Chris Hipkins’ staff are investigating options to get the prime minister from Auckland to Wellington in time for the scheduled opening of parliament tomorrow, but it’s not looking good, with domestic flights currently cancelled across all airports in the upper part of the North Island in response to Cyclone Gabrielle. Chris Hipkins will chair cabinet virtually today, and front a post-cabinet press conference in Auckland.

MPs and officials are understood to be looking at the parliamentary schedule to see if things might be shuffled around to accommodate a late arrival. As it stands, Hipkins is due to deliver the prime minister’s statement at 2pm tomorrow, with his first appearance as PM in question time set down for Wednesday.

An unknown number of other MPs are similarly stranded in the top half of the island. Air NZ chief executive Greg Foran said this morning that “if we get going, it will probably be at midday tomorrow.”

Speaking last night at an Apec business council meeting in Auckland, Hipkins said: “I would like to tell you that I had braved the weather to get here to be with you this evening. But I actually came up yesterday so I could attend the Ed Sheeran concert. Us gingers have got to stick together.”

Tairāwhiti latest to declare state of emergency

(Image: Getty / additional design The Spinoff)

A state of emergency has been declared in Tairāwhiti, the latest region to bear the brunt of Cyclone Gabrielle.

Tairāwhiti joins Auckland and Northland in states of emergency. All will last for at least seven days.

Like much of the North Island, the Gisborne area is in a red heavy rain with over 300 mm expected to fall.

(Image: Getty / additional design The Spinoff)

No, a marlin did not leap out of the water in Paihia

This a statue of a marlin on the Paihia waterfornt. It is not a real marlin. (Image: Facebook)

As Cyclone Gabrielle bears down, local Facebook groups are alight with useful information, questions, offers of help and pictures of what’s going on.

They can also be a place where sensational images can go viral without the local context to know what you’re looking at. 

If you’re a Paihia local, you’ll know there’s a 4m-tall statue of a marlin on the waterfront. If you’re not, and someone has shared images of the Paihia waterfront as waves crash onto the wharf, obscuring the base of the marlin statue, it could look like a small sharknado situation.  

This a statue of a marlin on the Paihia waterfornt. It is not a real marlin. (Image: Facebook)

That’s what is currently happening on Facebook, where a local posted photos from the Paihia waterfront last night and they’re being shared thousands of times. Some people know it’s a statue and some people don’t. Several photos were shared, a couple of which clearly show the base of the statue but images get shared or downloaded individually so it’s very easy for context to go flying out of the water faster than the shark that did not. No one is deliberately spreading false information here, but the “be the first to share sensational or even just funny photos” itch is perhaps being scratched.

Just a reminder there is a whole genre of viral and fake disaster photos that feature sharks including sharks in a mall, a shark on the freeway and a shark befriending a man. Memes become hoaxes and hoaxes become memes and the endless viral merry-go-round whirs on. 

The shark in this photograph is real, but the photo of it was taken off the coast of South Africa. It was not swimming along a Houston freeway. (Image: Twitter)

A few tips for avoiding false information and sharing false information:

  • Reverse image search is your friend
  • Take a 5 second pause or deep breath before hitting share, duet or retweet to think about the probability of what’s being shown. Resist scratching the itch to be first.
  • If you are sharing video or imagery as the cyclone hits, add some useful information about where and what is shown
  • Know that if a marlin was in fact leaping out of the water in Paihia, your friendly local media would be all over it

ICYMI: Don’t put your kerbside bins out today

Metservice issued heavy rain and/or wind warnings for the entire North Island and top of the South at 5am (13 February, 2023) (Image: MetService)

I’ve seen a few messages popping up in community Facebook groups asking whether or not people should be putting their rubbish bins out for collection – so I thought I’d re-up this message from emergency officials earlier today.

All kerbsite collections for both rubbish and recycling have been cancelled today and tomorrow for, at least, Auckland and the Coromandel. Northland waste has not provided an update on their website but given the developing situation it is likely to be the same situation and also not worth the risk.

Officials said that rubbish bins could be moved in the wind or floodwaters, potentially causing damage or blocking drains.

The latest from Auckland Council is that there will not be any catch-up collections for impacted properties, so people are asked to either hold onto their waste until the next service or take it, for free, to a transfer station.

People are advised to secure their rubbish bins on their own properties to stop them from being unintentionally moved by the wild weather.

‘Today is the main event, the one we’re really nervous about’ – forecaster on Gabrielle

Waka Kotahi Auckland Transport operations room. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

The top line on Gabrielle: “In terms of the cyclone getting closer, we’re seeing those wind speeds, already very strong throughout yesterday, picking up. The rain will also intensify. Parts of Northland in the last 24 hours have seen around 200mm rain, parts of Coromandel 150mm. Auckland so far hasn’t had too much in the way of the heavy rain but today is the day for them. If yesterday was bad, today is going to be even worse. People do need to be bunkering down, weathering the storm … Today is the main event. It’s the one we’re really nervous about.”

That’s MetService meteorologist Lewis Ferris‘s assessment, as explained on RNZ this morning. For New Zealand’s biggest city, the hazardous cocktail was a combination of already wet soils after recent flooding, further rain and vicious winds, including an unusual south-easterly which could push trees that had “stood the test of time” in unfamiliar directions.

Waka Kotahi Auckland Transport operations room. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Speaking on the AM Show, Ferris said the weather system was likely to intensify through today, then “ease out across second half of Tuesday”.

Gabrielle’s path south, over cooler seas, meant it was no longer a tropical cyclone, but “now that it is a mid-latitude cyclone, that’s when we see that severe weather spread hundreds of kilometers away from the centre of the system”. There had been gusts of 115km/hour measured at Auckland Harbour Bridge, and similar levels could be expected across Auckland in the hours ahead.

Asked if it was developing less severely than anticipated, Ferris said it had “pretty much panned out as expected”. He said: “Hopefully it won’t be as bad as what we’ve been forecasting but we have to give that information to people, because if it does pan out and we didn’t tell people we would have done poorly.”

Niwa, meanwhile, cautions that “for most, the worst is yet to come.”


The Bulletin: Sleepless night in Northland and Coromandel

Metservice issued heavy rain and/or wind warnings for the entire North Island and top of the South at 5am (13 February, 2023) (Image: MetService)

In Northland, at least 8,000 households are without power. Repairs to the network are being hampered by unsafe conditions and residents are being told to expect to be without power for days. All schools in Northland had been closed following the declaration of a state of emergency.

RNZ’s Morning Report reported that parts of Northland have had 200mm of rain in the past 24 hours causing surface flooding. High tide is just before 1pm in Whangarei and Civil Defence is warning that it could bring more flooding.

Thames Coromandel Civil Defence controller Garry Towler said the region received a battering overnight but has so far pulled through. Nearly 4000 residents have experienced power outages. Towler said the area can expect another 400mm of rain today.

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Officials urge Aucklanders: ‘Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security’

Cyclone Gabrielle barrels towards Aotearoa in February 2023 (via earth.nullschool.net)

Auckland emergency officials have just held a briefing on the evolving Cyclone Gabrielle situation.

I’ve got a full write-up below, but first here is the shorthand:

  • Thousands of homes are still without power. Officials warned this number will likely grow.
  • All non-essential services in Auckland will remain closed until Wednesday.
  • Avoid travel where possible and, if you can, work from home.
  • Don’t go storm-watching at the coast and avoid trees that could collapse.
  • Curbside rubbish collection suspended. Please bring your rubbish bins off the street and secure them.
  • Emergency services responded to more than 200 calls in Auckland and Northland overnight.
  • Train services in Auckland remain cancelled until Wednesday. That includes most rail replacement buses.

Read more: Aucklanders urged to stay home

Thousands of homes in the wider Auckland region remain without power this morning, with officials warning the situation remains “fluid” and further outages are possible.

The first of two schedule emergency briefings in Auckland has just taken place. Those speaking reiterated that despite it seeming calm right now, the weather was expected to get worse and people should be prepared. That included avoiding all travel where possible, staying home if you can, and not travelling anywhere that could put you at risk (such as the coast).

Auckland Council has closed all non-essential services across the region until the end of tomorrow.

“We know that the storm is going to get more severe for our region and that’s why we issued an emergency alert yesterday, to highlight the seriousness of the situation,” said a spokesperson. “We would remind everyone that this bad weather is likely to cause further land instability.

“Parking up underneath trees and taking that approach is not the advisable thing. [We] really encourage people to make wise decisions, stay away from sitting under trees or going out to places they don’t need to be.”

Curbside rubbish collection has been suspended until Wednesday and people are advised to secure their bins and not leave them out on the street.

Firefighters have responded to more than 200 calls across the Northland and Auckland region, with 20 in Waikato. A spokesperson for FENZ said these were largely call outs related to the wind, like “roofs lifting off homes, windows blown out [and] a couple of places where trees have fallen on houses.”

They added: “Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security… Please don’t drive through the floodwater, you can’t see how deep it is or whether there is submerged debris.” People were reminded that they could still contact emergency services on 111 if required. “Help us to get to the people who need us the most.”

All passenger train services in Auckland remain suspended until at least 3pm today, with rail replacement buses only available on previously scheduled services.

More than 50,000 homes have lost power in Cyclone Gabrielle


The morning has begun with power out for about 50,000 households across the north, Auckland and Coromandel.

Close to a third of customers in the Whangarei and Kaipara region covered by Northpower are without electricity. “There are currently 18,500 households and businesses without power. Those affected by an outage will continue to be without power over the coming days and in some cases a week,” the provider announced just after 7.30am. “We will be throwing everything at restoring power as quickly as we can.”

In the Far North, Top Power reports more than 10,000 without power after “a rough night” with the network “battered with widespread outages”. It adds: “Wind gusts of 140km/h, Fire and Emergency has responded overnight to several fallen trees and to downed power lines with our staff. A small number of roofs lifting, and sheds being blown down. We are preparing for the long haul; we expect this weather to continue for at least another 48 hours and that it will impact our whole network … At close of day yesterday there were 4,000 customers without power, overnight this rose to 14,000 and we have around 10,500 off supply now … Northland has taken a real hammering and it will take us a number of days to fully restore supplies.”

In Hauraki-Coromandel, PowerCo reports more than 5,000 customers without power. “It will take time for power to be restored,” said a spokesperson. “Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work as quickly and safely as possible to get you reconnected.”

In Auckland, Vector has not issued an update since 8pm last night, when 15,000 outages were reported and it warned, “we expect further outages overnight and tomorrow.” A glance at the outage map suggests the affected areas remain about the same. (Update: Vector advised at 8.30am that 15,000 homes are without power this morning, saying, “In some instances, it’s likely these outages will be prolonged as our crews encounter challenges, such as road access caused by fallen trees or slips, which could delay repair times.”)

At 4.45am, Counties Energy reported “widespread outages across the region”, though “most are still affecting only single properties or small areas”. There was a “larger outage in Awhitu” and a “significant number in the Hunua/Paparimu/Ararimu/Bomaby area”. A spokesperson advised: “Our crews are working as quickly and safely as they can to get your power flowing. It’s hard going out there in these high winds, however the crews are resolving faults quickly.”

See the latest outages in Auckland here. For Counties go here. For Northland see here, the Far North here, and Coromandel here.

Watch live: Auckland emergency officials hold Gabrielle briefing

Officials, including the prime minister, are about to hold a briefing on the latest situation in Auckland.

Thanks to the Herald, you can tune in below.

‘Worst is yet to come’: Hipkins says Gabrielle response not an overreaction

PM Chris Hipkins in Waitangi over the weekend (Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

“The worst is yet to come”. That’s the warning from the prime minister who has spoken to media this morning.

Chris Hipkins has defended the ongoing response to Cyclone Gabrielle, after being asked on the decision to effectively shut down our biggest city down.

Auckland is on high alert after a night of relative calmness – heavy rain has fallen but predicted high winds have not yet slammed the city. The harbour bridge has reopened this morning, earlier than expected, but commuters are warned it could shut again at any moment.

Prime minister Chris Hipkins is stuck in Auckland today after visiting the city yesterday to assess preparedness for the cyclone. He will chair cabinet remotely before attempting to make it back to Wellington for the first sitting day of parliament tomorrow.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB, Hipkins said officials had to take the red weather warnings seriously and act accordingly. “It is a cyclone, it is something that could have a significant effect. But it’s weather, it’s notoriously unpredictable. We would rather make sure people are safe than have a severe weather event that people were not prepared for,” he said.

Hipkins almost said things were “so far, so good”, but added that the worst of the weather could be still to come.

Asked on RNZ whether climate change had now shifted to the top of the government’s agenda, Hipkins said it already was. “It’s not just issues around climate change, it’s also issues around resilience,” he said, citing ongoing work on the Resource Management Act reform.

Four international flights arrive at Auckland airport. NYC flight halts in Pacific

Auckand Airport International Arrivals (Photo: RNZ)

Four international flights have arrived at Auckland airport this morning (from Santiago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Melbourne), with conditions not so severe that contingency plans to reroute to another New Zealand location were required.

Existing plans, including the closure today of Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton and Taupo airports to all domestic flights and the cancellation of all Tasman and Pacific flights, would remain in place, said Greg Foran, the airline’s CEO, on RNZ. “You try to thread the needle and try to come up with a solution that gets you in the best position, fundamentally, to recover when you need to.”

He said: “At this stage, if we get going, it will probably be at midday tomorrow.”

A flight from New York has stopped in Rarotonga, with pilots making a “safety first” decision en route, he said.

For more on the cancellations announced yesterday see here.

Cyclone Gabrielle: What you need to know

Here are the latest toplines as Cyclone Gabrielle bears down on the North Island.

Heavy rain and strong wind warnings for entire North Island, top of the South

Metservice issued heavy rain and/or wind warnings for the entire North Island and top of the South at 5am (13 February, 2023) (Image: MetService)

The entire North Island, top of the South Island and parts of the West Coast are now under heavy rain and/or wind warnings or watches. MetService upgraded 24 warnings and watches at 5am this morning that extend from Cape Reinga down to Marlborough, Nelson, Buller and the West Coast north of Fox Glacier.


Northland: Red heavy rain warning until midnight Monday; Red strong wind warning until 9pm Tuesday

Auckland: Red heavy rain warning until 4am Tuesday; Red strong wind warning until 9pm Tuesday

Coromandel: Red heavy rain warning until 9am Tuesday; Red strong wind warning until 9am Tuesday

Bay of Plenty: Orange heavy rain warning (west of Whakatane) from 9am Monday to 6am Tuesday; heavy rain watch east of Whakatane and east of Taupo from 10am Monday to 6am Tuesday

Waikato: Orange heavy rain warning from 9am Monday until 6am Tuesday

Waikato, Waitomo, Taumarunui, Taupo, Taihape, Bay of Plenty, and Gisborne: Orange strong wind warning from 9am Monday to 9am Tuesday

Gisborne: Red heavy rain warning north of Tolaga Bay from to 4am Tuesday; Orange rain warning south of Tolaga Bay from 8am Monday to 7am Tuesday

Hawke’s Bay: Orange heavy rain warning from 10am Monday to 10am Tuesday; Orange wind warning 5pm Monday to midday Tuesday

Waitomo, Taranaki north of the Mountain, Taumarunui, and Taupo away from the eastern ranges: Heavy rain watch from 3pm Monday to 6am Tuesday

Mt Taranaki: Orange heavy rain warning from 7pm Monday until noon Tuesday; Taranaki: Orange wind warning from 5pm Monday to noon Tuesday

Wairarapa: Orange heavy rain warning from midnight Monday to 3pm Tuesday

Wairarapa including the Tararua District, Wellington, Whanganui and Manawatu: Orange strong wind warning from 5pm Monday to 12pm Tuesday

Horowhenua and the Kapiti Coast: Orange strong wind warning from 5pm Monday to noon Tuesday

Marlborough, Nelson and Buller: Orange strong wind warning from 9pm Monday to 9pm Tuesday

Eastern Marlborough south of Blenheim, including Kaikoura Coast: Orange heavy rain warning from 6am Tuesday to midnight Tuesday

Westland north of Fox Glacier: yellow strong wind watch from midnight Monday to midnight Tuesday