Wanganui Chronicle

Columns
Wednesday, June 24, 2015

THE weather wreaked havoc across the Rangitikei, Wanganui, Southern Taranaki and Manawatu regions over the weekend.

We were hit by another 100-year flood - the third or fourth in just 11 years - and again hundreds of people had their homes, farms, workplaces, schools and more damaged or destroyed.

Wanganui had 140 millimetres of rain during Friday and Saturday, with over 90mm falling on Saturday alone.

That's a significant deluge when the average rainfall for the whole month of June is around 94mm. These measurements were representative across the whole region.
The resulting floods swamped large parts of Wanganui city and many small rural communities throughout the region have been adversely affected, too. The Waitotara and Whangaehu townships and surrounding farmland have been completely flooded and homes and farms in Koitiata, Tangimoana, Feilding, Marton and Hunterville, among others, have also suffered significant damage.

Other rural areas that have been particularly hard hit include the lower Manawatu basin where many farms are completely inundated, and the Te Rangimarea Marae at Rangiotu which is under water again after a significant rebuild after 2004.

The lower Turakina and Whangaehu Valleys and beach areas are badly silted and there is a considerable amount of erosion damage in the hill country of the Rangitikei and Wanganui districts.

Damage to roading infrastructure is particularly severe with slips, washouts and broken bridges throughout.

This flood is different from the 2004 event in that the damage seems to be much more localised and we didn't get the strong winds this time, which contributed to the challenges of 2004. Fortunately, the heaviest rainfall did not occur in the tops of the catchments so there has been comparatively less river infrastructure damage.

It is reassuring that many of the flood measures taken then have proved successful - most notably the Feilding spillway in the Makino, along with the improvements to stopbanks and the new bridge at Kopane.

Without these the damage, loss of productivity and subsequent repair bill would be much worse.

Of course, there are other parts of the region where preventative measures may have limited the damage done and I am sure future flood protection will be discussed at length over the coming weeks.

The Government is committed to contributing to the cost of the damage caused by this significant event. We have already given the go-ahead for Enhanced Task Force Green funding and activated a disaster relief fund for the Manawatu Whanganui region.

Further assistance will be available under the Rural Recovery Policy which is administered by the Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy.

Mr Guy travelled throughout a number of affected areas yesterday, while Civil Defence Minister Nikki Kaye is returning to Wanganui after first seeing the full force of the damage when she met with mayor Annette Main on Sunday.

There is no doubt that the effects of this flood will have a negative impact on the productivity of much of the Rangitikei electorate for the next year or so. It will certainly take a while for those worst affected to recover.

It's times like this when the sense of community and camaraderie that is at the heart of rural and provincial New Zealand will be needed most.