Ongoing Auckland Floods.


Ian Schmutzler, Writer

In ongoing floods, Auckland, the most populous city in New Zealand, has almost been cut off from the outside world. The city has experienced more rainfall in a day than it typically experiences in an entire month, leading to significant landslides and blackouts. A state of regional emergency has been declared, the first time this has happened since 2002.


After a major heatwave brought on by the La Niña cycle, Cyclone Hale hit the North Island on January 10th, causing the declaration of a state of emergency in the island. Prior to the floods, it had been called the ¨worst summer ever¨. However, starting on the 27th of January, major flooding began. Over 250 millimeters, almost a foot, of rainfall fell in Auckland on the first day alone. Whitanga and Tauranga, other cities in the North Island, were subject to similarly harsh flooding, alongside the regions surrounding them. Aging stormwater infrastructure has failed the region and was unable to cope with the weather. Four sewer pumping stations were flooded entirely and were unable to continue operations.


Given the ongoing nature of the storm, it is difficult to determine the exact extent of the storm’s damage. However, current estimates suggest that over 1 billion New Zealand Dollars, or 630 million US dollars of damage was done to the island. This estimate would, if correct, make this the costliest weather event in New Zealand since 2019, when a hailstorm in Timaru 170 million New Zealand dollars, or 107 million US dollars. At least four have been killed, and many more have been displaced. Evacuation has been made difficult by the closure of nine major roads due to flooding and debris, as well as the Auckland Airport, which was forced to divert several incoming flights to safer airports. A freight train near the town of Te Puke derailed when the tracks it was running on collapsed under its weight.


Wayne Brown, the mayor of Auckland, has been criticized for his response to the floods. Several emails and text messages have been leaked that have caused significant controversy. In a WhatsApp group chat, he said that the media was paying too much attention to him, so ¨sadly no tennis for me tomorrow.¨  He has also been accused of being too slow to announce a state of emergency, given that he only announced the state several hours after major flooding had started. However, it is worth noting that this was at the recommendation of professionals. Regardless, calls for his resignation as mayor have been voiced, and a petition for this has been set up on, a California based website.


The rain has declined noticeably, with some regions experiencing the first complete lack of rainfall since the beginning of the floods. Landslides have persisted due to the remaining water leftover from the floods, though they are much less damaging as they have been. However, it is likely that the North Island is still in danger. The recently formed Cyclone Gabrielle has been projected to hit the North Island sometime in February. Given that Tropical Cyclone 10P was what started these floods, many are worried that this cyclone could cause a repeat of previous events. While New Zealand will have time to prepare for this cyclone, it is still likely that significant damage will be caused. Regardless of if this cyclone and subsequent floods are as damaging as the first, it is clear that the ordeal the North Island is going through is not over.