New Zealand – Emergency Declared After Floods in Canterbury

A state of emergency has been declared for the entire region of Canterbury in New Zealand following torrential rain and flooding.

Evacuation notices have been issued in Waimakariri District. The Waimakariri River and Ashley Rakahuri regional parks have been closed, as have dozens of roads across the region. Emergency crews have carried out flood rescues, including some by helicopter.


Some areas have seen more than 300mm of rain since 29 May 2021. More heavy rain is forecast and New Zealand’s MetService has issued a “Red Warning For Rain” lasting until the afternoon of 31 May 2021.

In around 21 hours on 30 May, the weather station at Cookies Hut (Hakatere Conservation Park) recorded 247.5 mm of rain; Mount Somers 295.5 mm; Blandswood 232.5 mm; Geraldine Forest 267.0 mm; and 13 Mile Bush 221.5 mm.

Floods and Evacuations

Immediate evacuation notices were issued for areas close to the swollen Eyre and Ashley Rivers in Waimakariri District after the District Council warned that stopbanks (embankments or levees) along rivers are at risk of failing late on 30 May 2021.

Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management said that residents in the Sheffield, Waddington and Springfield areas in Selwyn District “have been encouraged to self-evacuate if they are feeling anxious or concerned about their situation. For any residents without friends or family support, a community-led emergency centre is now open at the Darfield Recreation Centre.”

In Ashburton District, Environment Canterbury staff are monitoring the the Ashburton River near Ashburton town. Overflows have already occurred upstream, Environment Canterbury said. Ashburton District Council is “advising residents in Ashburton, particularly in the vicinities of Allenton, Netherby, and Racecourse Road, to prepare for evacuation as a precautionary measure should there be a breach in Ashburton River stopbanks. While no decision has made to evacuate as of yet, residents should get ready and plan for an evacuation upon official notice.”

In Timaru District, river overflows have occurred on both sides of the Waihi River between Geraldine and just north of Temuka, according to Canterbury Civil Defence. The Temuka River has also overflowed to the southwest into the Arowhenua area.

Flood Rescues

Dozens of roads have also been closed across the region and police are urging people to stay home.

According to local media reports, 6 people were rescued from a car in flood waters near the town of Cust, northwest of Christchurch. Media also reported the driver of a car swept down the Ashley River was found injured and in a serious condition.

Meanwhile 6 people were rescued by helicopter after they became trapped in flooding from the Ashley River near Okuku.

State of Local Emergency Declared

The Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management Group has declared a state of local emergency in Canterbury, extending emergency powers across the entire region. The region-wide declaration, which follows local declarations of emergency in the Timaru, Ashburton and Selwyn districts, will give local authorities the ability to take any action required as the situation unfolds.

Chair of the Joint Committee Lianne Dalziel said “It also means all of the region’s resources are available, and we don’t have to worry about territorial boundaries.”