The Bay of Plenty town of Edgecumbe is being completely evacuated after the Rangitaiki River breached its banks.
Whakatane District Council says the entire township of about 2000 was being cleared late this morning, after the river’s stopbanks burst near College Road.
Mayor Tony Bonne described the situation as “serious” and the council appealed to anyone still in the area to leave immediately.
Welfare centres have been set up at the Firmin Lodge in Kawerau and at the Whakatane War Memorial Hall, and buses were running from the town’s fire station.
Police and fire crews have been going from house to house and anyone unable to leave on their own was urged to call emergency services.
Boats were also being used to rescue some residents in areas that couldn’t be reached by trucks and “large number” of homes had already been flooded, a Fire Service spokesman said.
Mr Bonne told RNZ the flooding was a one-in-500-year event and residents should not expect to return home for at least 24 hours.
The evacuation comes as the Metservice lifted all heavy rain warnings for the North Island.
The remnants of Tropical Cyclone Debbie have been lashing the north and causing flooding since Tuesday night, and is expected to hit the Banks Peninsula with 50mm to 80mm of rain today, the Metservice says.
Along with Kaikoura, the peninsula could also be hit by winds of up to 130kph.
About 200 residents evacuated in Whanganui following floods have been allowed to return home and a state of emergency was lifted at 11am
Fears the Whanganui River would overflow in a repeat of floods in 2015 prompted early evacuations in the area yesterday, but water levels subsided overnight.
Police say they had received no more information following reports a person had gone missing in the Waikato River and say no one was reported missing overnight.
In Wellington, 50 people were forced to leave their homes after fears the Owhiro Stream, just south of Brooklyn, flooded homes.
Flights in and out of the capital’s airport resumed on Thursday morning, after a few dozen travellers were left stranded by overnight cancellations.
Eleven people trapped in their cars by flood waters while trying to evacuate from Taneatua in the Bay of Plenty overnight were now safe and were not in danger, the Fire Service says.
In the South Island, Kaikoura was cut off again after both State Highway 1 (earthquake damage) and the Inland Road (weather-affected) were closed.
The Inland Road reopened mid-morning. NZN