Northland wild weather: Roads, schools, and more - what you need to know (2023)

Flooding on SH16 in Kaipara on Monday. Photo / Michael Craig

Last update: 5.46pm

Downpours overnight have already impacted parts of the region as Northland braces for a forecasted onslaught of heavy rain, strong winds, and thunderstorms.

A state of emergency was declared in Northland around 1.30pm today. The move provides authorities powers that would otherwise not be available but enable them to respond swiftly to emergencies.

The Far North has prepared for the worst as its council this afternoon announced an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) had been set up in Kaikohe to coordinate a response to unfolding emergencies.

Okarika at Rowland Rd, just outside Dargaville, recorded the highest 24-hour rainfall up until 7am today. The area received 50mm of rain. Kimberley Rd in Hauhora received 41.5mm, Kohe Rd at Pawarenga 39.5mm, Wekaweka Rd in Waimamaku and Wiroa Rd at Waitangi 37mm. Paparoa did not receive any rain over the 24-hour period.

The worst of a front moving down the North Island is expected to hit Northland this afternoon. MetService is warning there’s a moderate risk of severe thunderstorms with this front, which will bring localised downpours of 25mm to 40mm per hour or possibly more.

“Rainfall of this intensity can cause surface and/or flash flooding, especially about low-lying areas such as streams, rivers or narrow valleys, and may also lead to slips”.

A Severe Thunderstorm Watch has been issued for Northland from 12pm today through to 4am tomorrow. Northeast winds may turn to severe gales in exposed places. Winds are forecast to ease off by 6am tomorrow.

An Emergency Operations Centre has been set up at the Far North District Council’s headquarters in Kaikohe as a precaution ahead of expected heavy rain overnight.

The centre came into operation at noon today in response to MetService’s red heavy rain warning for Northland — the highest warning level possible, and the first time it has been issued for the region.

MetService warned Northland could be inundated with 140-220mm of rain by 4am tomorrow with peak rates of up to 20mm per hour possible. That could cause dangerous river conditions and flooding that could make roads impassable and isolate some Northland communities.

The Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) is a central command post set up to coordinate a response to unfolding emergencies while making sure normal council operations continue.

Representatives from the emergency services — police, fire and ambulance — are part of the EOC, along with Civil Defence Northland and council staff with civil defence training.

EOC staff will be tasked with collecting, gathering and analysing weather-related information and will make decisions necessary to protect life and property, including setting up evacuation centres if required.

Northland wild weather: Roads, schools, and more - what you need to know (1)

All of Northland’s mayors are urging people to avoid unnecessary travel, especially this afternoon, and to work from home where practicable.

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Whangārei District Council contractors were prepared to attend to roading and other issues and Whangārei Mayor Vince Cocurullo urged Whangārei residents to report incidents as soon as possible.

Jepson said people should be sensible and keep off the roads where possible.

“Northland is pretty used to this sort of weather and Northlanders are good at adapting and making allowances during this weather,” he said.

Far North mayor Moko Tepania said people should make sure they have plans in place should the situation worsen.

”As Northlanders this isn’t our first rodeo, we’re a lot more resilient in terms of flooding and weather...but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared.”

Tepania said the kaumatua and kuia evacuated in South Hokianga overnight were taken to the Rawene town hall and Pakanae marae.

Far North deputy mayor Kelly Stratford, who chairs the Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management Group, said staff had been monitoring the weather closely since last Thursday when an orange heavy rain warning was issued for the region.

When that was raised to a red warning, community response groups and their volunteers around Northland had been contacted and instructed to be ready in case evacuations and welfare centres were needed. The full list was on the Northland Regional Council website.

“These groups know what to do and how to communicate if they need to stand up evacuation centres.

“People can be prepared by knowing if they’re in a flood zone, and knowing if they have a community response group in their area,” she said.

Councils had also been pulling in contracting staff to make sure they were ready to respond if needed.

Northland’s Mayoral Forum had been meeting daily and the region’s MPs were being kept up to date.

Emergency services were called to Puketotara Rd, near Waipapa, after a single-vehicle crash about 7.30am this morning. Firefighters said the car spun out, went off the road and ended up in a drain. The road was wet at the time but the crash was not thought to be weather related. The driver was assessed at the scene by St John Ambulance and was taken to Bay of Islands Hospital in a moderate condition.

Far North volunteer firefighters were called to secure a roof that threatened to blow away in heavy winds just outside Kaikohe. The incident occurred about 10.30am at a home on SH 12, just west of town.

Passenger ferry services on the Bay Belle between Paihia and Russell have been cancelled until further notice due to extreme weather. Foot passengers can still make the journey by catching a bus and the Ōpua car ferry, which is still running. The last bus leaves Paihia wharf at 8pm and Russell wharf at 8.45pm tonight.

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Whangārei District Council warned that contractors are clearing trees and other debris from a number of roads and asked people to avoid travelling. Waipū Gorge Rd is now closed due to a slip and a fallen tree. Russell Rd is also closed between Oakura and Mokau due to flooding. Waipū Caves Rd, Milbrook Rd and Brooks Rd are passable with caution.

In Kaipara, Tinopai Rd is back to two lanes after a fallen tree partially blocked the road. Child Rd is restricted to 4 wheel drive access only due to flooding.

State Highway 1 through the Brynderwyns remains closed after slips on Friday.

Civil Defence said trailer trucks and large trucks are advised to use SH12 and then SH14 to detour the closed highway. Trucks using SH16 coming north are getting stuck on the corner at Lane Cove, Waipū. Lighter vehicles can detour via Waipū and Mangawhai.

Northland wild weather: Roads, schools, and more - what you need to know (2)

Only one road remains closed in the Far North as of 5pm today but a growing list of roads around the district are passable only with caution or a 4WD due to flooding and fallen trees.

Maromākū-Tōwai Rd, off SH 1 south of Kawakawa, has been closed since Monday due to flooding which is too deep even for 4WD vehicles.

Another eight roads are flooded but passable. They are Grigg St and Commerce St in Kaitaia, Kohukohu Rd, Kaitāia-Awaroa Rd, West Coast Rd (at Mitimiti) and Mihirata Rd. Matawaia-Maromākū Rd and Pokapu Rd are passable only to 4WD vehicles.

Seven roads are partly blocked by fallen trees and require caution. They are Kohukohu Rd, Paponga Rd, Tirohanga Rd, Te Tio Rd, Otaua Rd, Takou Bay Rd and Curtis Rd.Caution is required on Otatara Marae Rd due to a washout.

Waka Kotahi Transport Agency yesterday lifted the toll on the Northern Gateway until the state of emergency in Auckland is lifted to help provide an alternative route to a flooded SH 16.


Te Whatu Ora Te Tai Tokerau says all of its critical clinical services will be continuing although there may be some disruptions.

“We are anticipating that much of our planned care will also continue as patients have time-sensitive and long-awaited treatment and appointments,” a statement read.

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Patients are asked to continue to attend appointments if safe to do so. Otherwise, people can contact Te Whatu Ora Te Tai Tokerau to reschedule.

Northland Rescue Helicopter pilot Susan Dinkelacker said the weather hasn’t impacted the rescue choppers yet, as calls were assessed on a “case by case basis”.

”We have civil aviation rules over whether we can fly through certain cloud and visibility. At the moment we’re expecting the bad weather to hit Whangarei around noon.

“We never know what direction the calls may come from. We follow the weather closely when the call comes in and assess it at the time. If it’s safe to do so we go out, but safety does come first.”


There is no official order in place from the Ministry of Education (MOE) to close schools in Northland. However, some have chosen to push out their term one start dates.

The ministry has advised parents and caregivers to check school websites or Facebook pages for the latest information on closures.

Many schools across the Northland region were not due to return until next week and later this week but Whangārei Boys High School and Whangārei Intermediate School have pushed their opening dates from January 31 to February 1 in order to ensure the safety of whānau, staff and students.

Kamo Intermediate School is due to open tomorrow as planned for year seven students and new year eights.

Ruakaka Primary School will be closed tomorrow. In light of weather warnings, flooding is expected to impact the school and the road in front which recently suffered a closure due to previous flooding.

Busses and special needs vans have been cancelled and the school will provide an update tomorrow as to when it will be opening.

Huanui College has made the decision to remain closed until Thursday despite being due to open today. They are advising parents and caregivers to check emails for further updates.

Kamo High School will be open tomorrow as planned for Year 13s only.

Schools closed in Te Hiku today include Oruaiti, Mangōnui, Peria, Taipa, Pamapuria, Awanui, Oturu, Kaitāia Intermediate, college and primary, and Pukepoto.


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NorthTec Te Pukenga has decided to close its campuses for the next 48 hours with a review to take place on Wednesday.

The Design School Whangārei will be closed Tuesday 31st and will re-open on February 1 or until further notice.


More than 1000 Far North homes are currently without power due to heavy rain and strong winds. Most of the affected households, just under 700, are north of Kaitāia in the area between Awanui and Waiharara.

Power went out at 2.50pm and is expected to be restored by 7pm. The other major outages are centred on Taheke west of Kaikohe (432 households) and the Puketona-Oromahoe area south of Kerikeri (166 households).


The SPCA has said in the event of flooding, people should bring pets that live outdoors inside and provide access to food and water. Dogs should not be taken outside and not allowed to swim in flood waters as they may get hurt or the water may be contaminated.

For animals such as horses and farmed animals, place them on higher ground with access to clean water and shelter.

In natural disasters such as flooding, emergency responses involving displaced animals are coordinated by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). They can be contacted for emergency response support on 0800 222 200.

Northland SPCA has announced their drop-in centres have been cancelled for today and will instead resume in two weeks.

Events/local attractions

All passenger trains on the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway have been cancelled on Wednesday, February 1, due to rising floodwaters and the MetService heavy rain and wind warnings.

Pou Herenga Tai Twin Coast Cycle Trail has also been officially closed until further notice.


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