A good Samaritan saved 11 cars from rising floodwaters in Lower Hutt on Monday, after torrential rain caused the Hutt river to burst its banks.
Jeffrey Tofilau, a mechanic, used his Toyota Landcruiser to haul out the cars from the flooded Riverbank car park after levels began to rise on Monday.
He initially towed out seven vehicles, then returned to assist others, spending a total of four hours in the water.
“I left to do my shopping then saw more people standing on the hill waving, so I towed another four,” Tofilau said.
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He said he wasn’t looking for any sort of compensation, but wanted to help.
“No one authorised me to do it but … the police waved to see if I was OK. Some people came over to say thanks.”
Wellington commuters have faced a difficult journey home with some returning to water-logged cars that weren’t able to be saved and those in the northern suburbs dodging slips after a day of persistent rain in the capital.
The Johnsonville train line is affected by a slip and trains between Khandallah and Johnsonville will be suspended until Tuesday afternoon, Metlink has warned, saying commuters should expect delays.
Metlink says trains will be running half-hourly from Wellington and Khandallah, but buses and shuttles will replace trains between Khandallah and Johnsonville.
Up to 20 cars in the Riverbank car park alongside the Hutt River became submerged as river levels rose.
Cole Douglas got a call from his boss about noon asking where he had parked his car. He knew something was up when he saw a crowd of people looking down on the car park.
“I saw all the people up on the riverbank and was like ‘oh stink’.
“I’ve never experienced this sort of flooding. Not much you can do about it. The car was old anyway – probably time for an upgrade.”
Roads closed in Hutt, Porirua, Kāpiti
In Hutt Valley, Block Rd at Melling, the Riverbank Car Park and Harcourt Drive are closed. In Porirua, Grays Rd is now closed.
On the Kāpiti Coast, Te Kupe Rd and the intersection of Waterfall and Emerald Glen Roads is closed. Maungakotukutuku Rd is closed due to slips.
A diversion in place at Rimu Rd in Paraparaumu and a stop/go system is in place on Nikau Palm Rd, which is open but down to one lane.
The slow moving front causing the heavy rain is expected to lurk over much of the lower North Island through Monday.
A number of warnings remain in place for the top of the South Island and bottom of the North Island, with thunderstorms also possible for central areas of the North Island in the afternoon and evening.
Heavy rain is expected to continue to fall throughout the day in Wellington, Kāpiti, Horowhenua, and in parts of Taranaki due to a slow moving low, which has moved across the lower North Island.
Kāpiti Coast residents have been advised to stay at home. Residents in the Wellington suburb of Seatoun narrowly avoided an order to evacuate their homes when a blocked drain opened just in time.
Fire and Emergency NZ said there were reports of flooding around Airlie Rd in Plimmerton, north of Wellington. It is the same area that suffered severe flooding in 2020.
Porirua mayor Anita Baker said Wellington Water cleared a drain with a pump and one person requested sand bags to keep the water away.
Wellington City Council spokeswoman Victoria Barton-Chapple said reports of flooding started arriving at the council contact centre shortly before 5am.
“There have been quite a few reports of surface flooding in Tawa, Khandallah, Karori, Seatoun, Newtown, Ngaio, and Kaiwharawhara, with a few blocked sumps and dancing manholes reported around the city too,” she said.
At 11.45am, contractors at the Riverbank car park began to move any remaining cars to higher ground.
Although the Riverbank car park floods regularly, it is unusual for cars to be caught by the rising river.
Hutt City Council’s emergency management lead Anthony Robinson said the council monitors river levels, and closes the car park once a particular threshold is reached.
Although the car park was closed earlier than it normally is, the council was caught out by the heavy rain.
“We also experienced an extremely rapid rise in river levels which was not expected.”
Following the decision to close the car park, the council sent a text message alert to car owners and called in three tow trucks to relocate vehicles.
Marie Garcia parked her daughter’s car just before 9am. At 11.15am she was watching a towing contractor wade over to the blue hatchback before driving it to higher ground.
“I didn’t think [the river would rise] so fast. The carpet will be all wet, but at least it still drives.”
Paekākāriki Hill Rd resident Dianne McLennan woke to find she wasn’t able to get down the hill. The flooding across the road had started as early as 6.45am when her partner tried to go to work.
The South Wairarapa Council is advising motorist to take care on rural roads. Greater Wellington Regional and Fulton Hogan are monitoring the Ruamahanga River at Waihenga Bridge.
MetService meteorologist Tui McInnes said Wellington’s heavy rain warning was expected to last until 9pm on Monday and possibly later.
Wainuiomata in Lower Hutt had the highest recorded rainfall with 72mm in the six hours up to 9am. Porirua had 60.8mm in the same time, while Kelburn had 55mm, and Paraparaumu had 51.8mm.
Monday would have persistent heavy rain through the day but the big dumps were mostly past, he said.
Heavy rain in Wellington has flooded some Seatoun streets.
Weather warnings in place
A heavy rain warning is in place for Mt Taranaki until 9am Tuesday. MetService warns of further periods of heavy rain, with another 100mm – 140mm expected to fall.
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According to MetService’s thunderstorm outlook, there’s a moderate chance of thunderstorms forming over Waitomo, Taupō, Taumarunui, southern Taranaki, Whanganui, northern Manawatū, Taihape and Central Hawke’s Bay on Monday afternoon and evening.