Winter blast going into the weekend


Winter is here for many parts of the country today and into the weekend, says Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.

“Be ready for cold and wintery conditions across the southern and central South Island and the lower North Island as we head into the weekend,” says Tresca Forrester, Waka Kotahi Journey Manager.

“Snow is forecast for Otago, Southland and the main divide through Canterbury. Our alpine passes are likely to see snow this coming weekend and it’s likely restrictions or closures could disrupt travel,” she says. 

“People need to drive ready and prepared for the weather.”

Another weather front on Friday is forecast to bring heavy rain and strong winds nationally, with possible squally thunderstorms for western areas.

Severe Weather Watches and Warnings are in force for many areas, particularly Te Waipounamu/the South Island and the lower and central North Island. 

MetService weather warnings(external link)

Slow down

Waka Kotahi crews generally use a combination of CMA (calcium magnesium acetate, a coating which reduces ice) and grit on the roads during winter as ice controllers. “Road users need to drive at much slower speeds in these conditions, gritted or not,” says Ms Forrester.

Waka Kotahi highway patrols are out ahead of the bad weather, grit runs are prepared for snow clearing and will continue through the day and weekend as required. “Allow for much greater braking distances and avoid braking suddenly,” says Ms Forrester.

“If you are travelling across regions from this weekend we advise you to pack warm clothes, food and keep up to date with weather forecasts and latest roading conditions.”

Snow and fitting chains

People who must travel should be prepared for road restrictions, road closures, and long delays. Drivers should carry chains and know how to fit them, for their own safety and everyone else on the roads.

Carrying chains and knowing how to fit them may be required when travelling on some South Island roads, for example Arthur’s and Porters Passes (SH73), Haast Pass (SH6) Burkes and Lindis Pass (SH8), Milford Road (SH94) and State Highway 75 between Akaroa and Christchurch.

State Highway 7 the Lewis Pass between North Canterbury and the West Coast/ Nelson will be either open or closed.

The Milford Road, SH94, is closing this afternoon at 4.30 pm.

Milford Sound/Piopiotahi highway closing today 4.30 pm, likely to be restrictions tomorrow and over weekend

Snow is already affecting SH94 (see photo below), the road into Milford Sound, but crews are aiming to keep the road open this afternoon. It will close overnight from tonight at 4.30 pm.

Heavy snow is forecast for Friday so SH94 may not reopen fully. A convoy in and out is planned when lighter snow is forecast between 10am and 12 noon Friday, depending on the snow clearing progress. Convoy times confirmed at 7:30am Friday. Saturday 11 June to Monday 13 June: 7:30am and 2pm updates will confirm restrictions.

Milford Sound/SH94 (Waka Kotahi Journey Planner website)(external link)

Waka Kotahi Journey Planner website(external link)

Otago/South Westland

Weather forecasts predict some snow overnight on the Lindis Pass, SH8, between Otago’s Cromwell and Canterbury’s Omarama then potentially more widespread snow Friday morning on the Lindis Pass, Queenstown Lakes area, Haast and Kingston. More snow could fall over Otago Friday night and then throughout the weekend.

Simple rules for safe winter travelling

  • allow extra time and stay up to date with both road updates and weather forecasts 
  • ensure your vehicle is safe for winter driving (warranted, windwipers/lights working, spare tyre, chains if in snowy areas)
  • drive to the road and weather conditions
  • slow down and be prepared for unexpected hazards
  • allow greater following distance between you and the vehicle ahead
  • make sure your cell phone is well charged, check car charger also
  • have blankets, snacks, bottles of water ready in case of emergency or a breakdown.

The Milford Piopiotahi highway today, SH94