Water News April 2014

Councils back huge irrigation scheme

9 April 2014 – Timaru Herald 

A massive South Canterbury irrigation scheme has received the financial backing of two district councils.

The Waimate District Council yesterday decided to back investment in the Hunter Downs irrigation scheme, with an initial payment of $31,250 for 1250 shares. This could rise to $250,000 if the scheme is built. 

Timaru District councillors also gave approval for the council's holding company, TDHL, to invest the same amount.

Timaru mayor Damon Odey said it was a great opportunity for the region. "Big landowners have clearly indicated support. This is a massive economic opportunity on our doorstep." 

Cr Steve Earnshaw said it could be a good strategic investment. 

"It's only a small stake, but it keeps our toe in the water." 

Hunter Downs Irrigation (HDI) hopes to begin construction in late 2016, with completion in 2019. 

Waimate District mayor Craig Rowley said the council had to "take the lead" and show it would invest in the wider community. 

He was confident that Environment Canterbury's Land and Water Regional Plan would manage the nitrates issue, and said the scheme itself would benefit the environment. 

"There are some good environmental benefits with augmentation of Lake Wainono and reduced groundwater being taken from a lot of our smaller streams," Rowley said. 

HDI, which has consents to irrigate up to 40,000 hectares of South Canterbury farmland north of the Waitaki River, launched its initial offer for 40,000 partly paid ordinary shares in March. 

HDI hopes to raise more than $4 million from investors. The money would go toward the pre-construction phase of the project, which includes consenting, land access and construction capital-raising work programmes over the next two years. 

Waimate District Council chief executive officer Tony Alden said the first payment of $25 a share would help fund the project's feasibility. 

"If there are not sufficient properties taking up the offer, then all the funds will be returned," he said.

  

Crown Irrigation invests $6.5m in Canterbury scheme

9 April 2014 - Stuff 

Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd has agreed the draft terms of a $6.5 million investment in Canterbury's Central Plains Water scheme. 

Crown Irrigation will partner with Central Plains Water Ltd for five years to provide subordinated debt finance. Subordinated debt ranks below other loans or debt should a company fall into liquidation or bankruptcy. 

Central Plains Water, made up of farmer shareholders, last month announced lead contractors for the three-stage project that could eventually cost $375m. 

The cost of the first stage is about $140m. 

Crown Irrigation said the investment would enable excess capacity that was needed for later stages of the scheme to be built in the headrace during stage one construction. 

Crown Irrigation chief executive Murray Gribben said the scheme would distribute reliable water to about 60,000 hectares on the Canterbury Plains once all three construction stages were complete. 

"Consistent with our requirements for investment, this is off-farm infrastructure of a regional scale that will contribute to the region's economic growth by unlocking the productivity gains that come from irrigation," Gribben said. 

"This scheme would not be developed to the scale required for the long term without our short-term financial support." 

A Fulton Hogan-John Holland joint venture and Downer Group have been named as the lead contractors by Central Plains Water. 

The Fulton Hogan-John Holland joint venture will do the construction of the headrace canal and bridges for stage one of the development, and Downers the pumping station and pipe distribution network taking water onto farmland on the Canterbury Plains. 

Gribben said Crown Irrigation was looking forward to a "prosperous relationship" with Central Plains Water and would consider the potential to fund some capacity in stages two and three of the scheme when the time came. 

Crown Irrigation was established to help harness the potential of irrigation to accelerate New Zealand's economic development by making targeted, bridging investments in larger, regional-scale irrigation schemes. 

The Government has signalled its willingness to invest up to $400m through Crown Irrigation to achieve this goal. 

Gribben said Crown Irrigation would look to invest in irrigation schemes to assist in mitigating "demand shortfall" in the early stages of scheme development. 

Before Crown Irrigation can consider investing in schemes it needs to satisfy a series of investment requirements. This includes having demonstrated technical feasibility, having consents in place, established water pricing that is fair, and having sound governance and management structures in place. 

Crown Irrigation's board chairwoman Alison Paterson said the decision to invest in the Central Plains Water scheme was consistent with its investment objective. This was to support irrigation development through to financial viability, where investment from other sources of capital had been exhausted. 

"This first investment by Crown Irrigation will allow the Central Plains Water scheme to be optimally sized for the long term, providing increased returns to agricultural producers on the Canterbury Plains," she said. 

Financial close for the investment is expected to be reached before mid-2014. This would allow for comprehensive due diligence to be carried

 

Water management under pressure

OPINION:  BRYAN JENKINS

11 April 2014 – The Press 

A Perspective piece in The Press (3 April) indicated that projected climate change effects will vary in different places. For Canterbury there are some significant implications for water management. 

New Zealand's average surface temperature has increased 1 degree Celsius over the last 100 years. While there is considerable variation in model projections, under mid-range scenarios average surface temperatures are projected to increase a further 2.1C over the next 100 years. This will increase evaporation rates and therefore irrigation demand. 

The crucial parameter is the potential evaporation deficit - the amount of water that needs to be added to achieve optimum plant growth. For the Canterbury Plains this is about 320mm. Modelled projections indicate an increase of around 120mm to 180mm by 2080, which is about a 50 per cent increase in irrigation demand. 

Climate models project little change in Canterbury's summer rainfall but significant changes in Canterbury's winter rainfall with decreases of 7.5 per cent to 10 per cent on the Canterbury Plains but increases of 5 per cent to 12.5 per cent in the Southern Alps and on the West Coast. 

These rainfall changes have significant implications for groundwater recharge. Rainfall recharge occurs primarily during winter so a rainfall reduction in winter will lead to a reduction in groundwater recharge. Groundwater levels will reduce and the volume that can be abstracted will also reduce. 

The effect on river flows depends on the type of river. Canterbury has three main types of river systems. The first type is our major braided rivers like the Waimakariri and Rangitata rivers that have their headwaters in the Southern Alps. They provide 88 per cent of the annual flow in the region. Much of the flow is from snow melt leading to peak flows in late spring and early summer. 

The second type is our foothill rivers like the Selwyn and the Ashley. Their headwaters are in the foothills and are predominantly rain-fed with winter peaks. 

The third type is our coastal lowland streams like Harts creek and the Irwell that are groundwater-fed with flows related to groundwater levels. 

With reduced groundwater levels the expectation is that lowland streams will decline in flow. With reduced winter rainfall on the plains the expectation is that foothill river flows will also decline. The aquatic ecology of lowland streams and foothill rivers is already under stress at times of low flow. 

With their headwaters in the Southern Alps the flow in the alpine rivers is expected to increase. However, what is also important is that the distribution of flow throughout the year will change. With increased winter rainfall and higher surface temperatures, less snowfall is projected by climate models. Although variable from year to year, the warming over the last 100 years has led to glacier retreat with increased elevations of between 25m and 125m. Winter flows will increase but spring/ summer flows may decrease. 

More detailed analysis of the flow patterns has been undertaken for the Waimakariri and Rangitata rivers. The results vary for different climate scenarios but mid-range projections indicate a 7 per cent increase in mean annual flow for the Waimakariri between 1990 and 2040, and an 8 per cent increase for the Rangitata. There are large flow increases from May to September but little change or slight decreases between September and April (the irrigation season). Analysis of the reliability of supply for run-of-river irrigation indicates increased levels of restriction. 

So in summary, from analyses undertaken to date, climate change projections for Canterbury indicate: 

- An increased demand for irrigation due to higher temperatures increasing evaporation rates.

- A decrease in winter rainfall on the plains reducing aquifer recharge and therefore reducing groundwater availability.

- A decrease in groundwater levels reducing the flow in lowland streams.

- A decrease in winter rainfall reducing the flow in foothill rivers.

- An increase in annual flow in alpine rivers from increased winter rainfall on the Southern Alps but a shift in flow distribution with increased winter flows and slight decrease in summer flows. 

These projections are significant for a region whose environmental and economic health is dependent on water. While it is not possible to "future proof" the region, there are approaches that can increase the resilience of the ecological and economic systems that are dependent on water. 

For example, the increased winter flows of alpine rivers could be harvested and stored for summer use. This is occurring on the Rangitata at Arundel with off- river storage ponds. However a more cost-effective solution for the Canterbury plains that would have both environmental and economic benefits is to use the increased winter flows for aquifer recharge. 

Managed aquifer recharge could maintain groundwater levels for abstraction and lowland stream flow as well as dilute groundwater contamination from land use intensification. It also avoids the evaporative losses and loss of land associated with surface storage. Analyses for the Canterbury Water Management Strategy showed managed aquifer recharge was only two thirds of the cost of equivalent surface water storage. 

There can also be significant improvements in water use efficiency to reduce irrigation demand. This is beginning to occur with shifts to more efficient forms of irrigation and the use of piped rather than canal distribution of water in irrigation schemes. 

However, more can be done through integrated surface and groundwater management. Integrated approaches would involve a predominant use of surface water when river flows allow, and a predominant use of groundwater when river flows are restricted. Also the greater use of surface water for irrigation in the upper reaches of groundwater zones would enhance recharge and enable greater use of groundwater for irrigation in the lower reaches. 

Increased water efficiency together with reduced groundwater leakage and reduced runoff can also be achieved by greater use of soil moisture demand irrigation. Irrigation is limited to times when soil moisture is below 80 per cent (to avoid soil saturation leading to groundwater leakage) but kept above 50 per cent (to ensure plant growth). 

There are ways that we can adapt to the projected effects of climate change but the adaptations involve changes in the way water is managed. This also has implications for the institutions that are needed to govern its management. 

Bryan Jenkins is professor of strategic water management at the Waterways Centre for Freshwater Management, a joint centre of University of Canterbury and Lincoln University. Data was drawn from Niwa reports and investigations of climate change implications for Canterbury.

 

Water woes for rural firefighting

11 April 2014 – Taranaki Daily News 

The Okato volunteer fire brigade is worried it may not have enough water to put out fires, despite this week's welcome rainfall. 

Fire chief Jared McBride said that, if a fire broke out today, the brigade would be able to fight it but the situation was getting dire. 

"Judging by what the local council says with the Mangatete Stream getting low, we could be looking down the barrel of some serious problems if it doesn't rain soon," McBride said. 

A total hose ban remains in place in Okato despite this week's rain, and MetService is not forecasting significant rain until next week at the earliest.

McBride said that, if a fire occurred in rural areas, water to fight it was usually sourced from streams and rivers nearby, and those were getting low too. 

New Plymouth District Council manager of water and wastes Mark Hall said the need for there to be sufficient water in the Okato reservoir to fight fires was one of the reasons water restrictions were introduced. 

He said the Okato brigade should have enough water to fight any fire in the township itself. 

This week's rain meant water levels had risen in the Mangatete Stream, but not enough to rescind the hose ban. The district council was continuing to monitor water levels, Hall said. 

"We expect it [the improvement] only to be temporary," he said. 

Kaitake Community Board chairman Doug Hislop said he was sure fire services worked closely with the district and councils to make sure they had a contingency plan should a fire break out during a dry period. 

"Mobile tankers are also available, if needed," he said. 

Taranaki Federated Farmers dairy chairman Bryce Kaiser said most farmers did not have a plan in case of a fire and with the water levels so low "we would have to cart and carry water in". 

Kaiser said most farmers were now realising that, if the owner of the property could not control a blaze fairly quickly, "we may be faced with having to let the fire burn itself out". 

That would apply if it was the family home, he said. 

"It's sad because it's someone's home but it's more economical than installing a bore." 

 

Concern for Riverlands aquifer level

15 April 2014 – Marlborough Express 

Allowing a Marlborough District Council application for more water for industrial estates south of Blenheim could damage the Riverlands aquifer, the independent planning commissioner considering the application says. 

Ron Crosby adjourned a planning hearing yesterday to allow the council more time to come up with a way that more water could be allocated for future growth in Marlborough wine and seafood processing without damaging the aquifer levels. 

Crosby said that as the application stood now, he could not grant it, as it would have a major adverse effect and put the aquifer at risk. 

The extra allocation would be over the safe aquifer yield as estimated by council, he said. It would also be unfair to grant such a large increase when applications from other people in that area had been turned down because of the concerns about the aquifer's slow recharge rate. 

"I can't at the moment properly grant the consent sought in the terms sought." 

He understood the industrial estates needed security as a priority, but the application had major issues to address. 

The hearing would re-convene on May 14 after the council had been able to consult more on water availability. 

Council planning and development officer Stuart Donaldson said the application was to renew a water take set in 2007, which was due to expire next month. 

As part of that, the council takes water from two wells in Hardings Rd, which is mixed with water from a well in Malthouse Rd in a reservoir near the Cloudy Bay industrial estate, south of Blenheim. The Malthouse Rd water has high levels of manganese and needed to be diluted. 

Planning consultant for the council Gavin Cooper said the council was using only 32 per cent of its allowable take, meaning there was provision for expansion. The council needed that for certainty. 

However, the Malthouse Rd supply was already at capacity during high demand periods during the grape harvest. 

The Hardings Rd wells supplemented that, and as development continued and demand at the industrial parks increased, more water would be needed. 

Riverlands was the only place in Marlborough with significant industrial-zoned land available for development and is the only industrial-zoned area the council has capacity in water and wastewater services for wet industries, Cooper said. 

The total industrial zoned land area at Riverlands is 124 hectares, with 56ha of that yet to be developed. 

"It is important that council has sufficient water available for growth at Riverlands and to provide certainty for industry," said Cooper. Marlborough is highly reliant on the processing of mussels and grapes for economic activity and employment. 

"These two industries, along with meat processing, require large amounts of high quality water and subsequent wastewater treatment. 

"Riverlands, that is at the Riverlands Industrial Estate and Cloudy Bay Business Park, is the only area in Marlborough where council is able to provide water and wastewater capacity for these high water usage industries." 

Donaldson said the water take had not resulted in any significant change in water quality over time and council's monthly testing would continue to monitor this.

 

Changes to Ruataniwha dam plan could affect viability

16 April 2014 – Dominion Post 

The Ruataniwha dam has been given the green light in a draft decision, but the accompanying plan change may mean it doesn't get off the ground. 

The proposed $275 million scheme was approved in a Board of Inquiry draft decision made public yesterday. 

The board has granted the 17 resource consent applications for the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme (RWSS). It allowed the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's Plan Change 6 request, but with major amendments. 

Critically, the board rejected the single nutrient control proposed by the council. This will have a significant impact on the type of farming that can occur in the area to be irrigated if the scheme proceeds. Farmers now need to consider whether they can work within the limits as well as being able to afford water and remain profitable. 

One of the plan change's fundamental premises was that increased nitrogen levels would not significantly add to algal growth in Tukituki River catchment. 

The board said the evidence underlying this premise was "equivocal, to say the least" and it agreed with opponents such as Fish and Game that the approach was "unsatisfactory and does not give effect to the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management". 

The board said it was surprised that many of the scientists now advocating the one nutrient approach had previously advised the best approach was to manage both nitrogen and phosphorous. 

The board favoured the approach used by Horizons regional council in its controversial One Plan, where the focus was on ecological health rather than toxicity. 

The board adopted Land Use Capability leaching rates as proposed by Fish and Game. 

"Obviously we have strived to arrive at a limit that will achieve environmental values without putting farmers, orchardists or horticulturalists out of business." 

The leaching rates "may require new and innovative technologies and farming methods to be implemented in order to comply with the permitted activity standards" and "it needs to be recognised that some land is simply not suitable for some intensive farming operations", the board said. 

The board says there are other options for farmers wanting greater security of water supply, including the use of deep groundwater, and it increased the availability of deep groundwater in some areas from 28.5 million cubic metres a year to 43.5 million cubic metres a year. 

"The board recognises that some groundwater users might be remote from access to rivers or streams requiring supplementary flows. But we do not believe that this is an insurmountable hurdle. 

"One way that it might be overcome is by a group approach on the part of the irrigators. Another might be by HBRC providing the necessary well/s, presumably at the cost of those who would benefit from it." 

All parties now have 20 days to make comments on minor or technical aspects of the board's decision. 

The board will issue its final decision by May 28. 

The council will today discuss a peer review on the viability of the scheme, and whether to proceed and invest up to $80m in its investment arm, Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company.

 

Extra pipes rendered redundant in Auckland

16 April 2014 - Stuff 

Recycled water schemes are going down the gurgler in Stonefields. The Mt Wellington subdivision was touted as a blueprint for future Auckland development with ground-breaking ideas including a reusable water system. Every Stonefields house built so far has an extra pipe, which was meant to allow treated storm and rainwater to be reused. A condition of buying into the subdivision was that residents must use recycled water for toilets and gardens. Stonefields residents were sold houses on the promise of water savings and similar systems have been used worldwides. But Watercare is pulling the plug, despite the pipe network's $7.2 million cost. Watercare spokesman John Redwood says the cost for residents and the health risks involved outweigh the sustainable benefits.

  

Ita's tail wreaks havoc across country

17 April 2014 - NZnewswire 

Roads are closed, roofs blown off, and thousands of homes and businesses left without power as storms lash much of the country. 

The fire service had responded to 844 weather-related emergencies by 4pm on Thursday, with about a quarter on the West Coast of the South Island. 

Winds of up to 140km/h from the tail end of Cyclone Ita caused havoc in Buller, blocking roads and knocking out power to almost all the region's 4500 customers. 

Buller Electricity chief executive Erik Westergaard says only the small town of Karamea has power, and that's through a diesel generator. 

"I had to go outside because a pole was about to fall over and the wind picked me up and shifted me 10m across the road," Mr Westergaard told NZ Newswire. 

As he spoke, a sheet of iron blew over the building and landed on the fence surrounding the Westport substation. 

"We've got three crews out in the field, but they can't go anywhere because trees are blocking the road, but we know they're safe." 

Further south, Cobden Bridge at Greymouth was closed due to strong winds and a welfare centre has been set up for stranded motorists to spend the night at Greymouth Baptist Church. 

Earlier, about 15,000 Auckland customers of Vector Energy had lost power due to fallen trees and other debris knocking out power. 

Vector's crews were gradually restoring power as the storm moved south and by 7pm about 2300 customers were still blacked out. 

Hundreds of people in the Rotorua area were also without power after gales and heavy rain brought down trees and power lines. 

Numerous roads were closed in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Coromandel during the day by fallen trees and power lines, and flooding. 

By the evening, New Zealand Transport Agency said State Highway 2 between Western Drain and Awakeri in Bay of Plenty was still closed by fallen trees. 

Coromandel's Kopu-Hikuai Road reopened as far as the Whangamata turn off, and but remained closed from there through to Tairua. 

Senior Sergeant Rupert Friend, of Waikato Police District, said there was still surface water in areas where roads were open and he urged extreme caution by all drivers "as now it is dark the surface water is harder to see". 

The bad weather also caused Interislander ferry sailings to be cancelled and a landslip that resulted in two Oriental Parade properties in Wellington being evacuated. 

MetService meteorologist Dan Corbett said the weather would gradually improve over Easter weekend as the tropical low drifted south. 

"The intense band of rain and strong to severe gales will sink south to engulf central parts of New Zealand by the end of Thursday, followed by slowly improving weather in the far north," he said.

"The wet and windy weather will still affect eastern parts of the South Island early on Good Friday, but it will improve gradually here too as the tropical low drifts south away from the country." 

 

1940s block survives slip

17 April 2014 - Dominion Post 

A 1945 high-end apartment block survived an onslaught of mud almost intact - but it's newly-built neighbour was not so lucky.  

Earth, tyres, tree branches and stormwater fell onto 118 Oriental Pde last night, after a deluge of rain. 

The building suffered only a broken window, but the slip flooded the neighbouring property, 120 Oriental Pde. Homeowner Sumi Taylor was in the house with her children at 9.30pm when water and mud began to pour on her property from the bank next door. 

"I was panicking. I was on the phone to my husband when I heard this rumbling sound. 

She saw dirt and debris had fallen onto the next-door apartments, but water continued to pour onto their section. With the rainwater tank unable to hold the deluge of water, firefighters had to knock a hole in the tank, flooding the muddy liquid through the Taylor's garage containing their car, children's toys and other stored possessions. 

They spent the night at the nearby Copthorne Hotel. 

"It was traumatic," she said of the mudslide. 

The family's multi-million dollar house featured on TV One show The Art of the Architect earlier this month. One building issue raised on the show was seepage from a Wellington City Council drain and a suspected stormwater leak. The Taylor family spent millions addressing these issues and securing the wall behind the property. The Earthquake Commission covers slip damage. An assessor would come to view the property in the next few days, Taylor said. 

The earth fell from a McFarlane St property about 10m above the apartment block next door to the Taylors. Apartment owners Georges and Jeanette Westermayer were watching television when they heard the slip.  "It sounded like an explosion", Mrs Westermayer said. 

Neighbours in the property above the slip described the sound as thunder-like before they heard a "sickening cracking sound". 

The Westermayers' top-floor apartment suffered no damage. The only impact they saw was a window broken in the building's entrance hallway, she said. 

But with mountains of dirt, retaining materials and vegetation piled up behind their building, the Westermayers and their two sets of neighbours were evacuated about an hour after the slip. They spent the night with friends and returned to the property this morning, hoping they would be allowed back in. 

The all-clear for residents to return was given just before 1pm. 

Residents of the McFarlane St property were also evacuated overnight. 

"It's something you would never expect. It seemed very stable," Mrs Westermayer said. 

Their downstairs neighbours, John Culy and Mary Bogard, spent the night with friend Elizabeth Ellis, who lived in the apartment building on the other side of the slip. 

Ellis heard the "enormous prolonged crash" from her property, at 116 Oriental Pde. 

She said her friends were "a little shaken" by the slip. "I was feeling shaken. A hell of a lot of earth came down."

Council building engineers were on site this morning investigating the slip's impact on the structural integrity of the building, spokesman Clayton Anderson said. 

"They are confident that it's stable and there's no movement." 

The engineers would also investigate the cause of the slip, which was unknown at this stage, Anderson said. 

The wider cliff had also been assessed, and engineers had found nothing of concern. 

Another slip on Nottingham St in Karori this morning had blocked the road. 

MetService forecaster Dan Corbett said, with 113mm of rain falling in the city centre yesterday and last night, the ground was like a "sodden sponge". 

But with ex-Cyclone Ita passing over New Zealand, the downpours would continue. Another 30 to 50mm of rain would fall in Wellington today. The eastern hills could receive another 100mm, Corbett said. 

Once the band of rain passed tonight, things would improve slightly. "They'll be more spells of rain rather than wall-to-wall rain."

 

Easter travel blow as police advise against Coromandel trips

17 April 2014 -  TV One News 

In a blow to Easter holidaymakers, Waikato police are advising against all but essential travel to or around the Coromandel Peninsula. 

A number of popular holiday routes in the area are closed following the first heavy rains in several months. 

Police and council roading staff and traffic management crews are dealing with a number of slips, fallen trees and flooded parts of roads, says Senior Sergeant Pete Van De Wetering of the Waikato District Command Centre. 

The Thames Coast Road is open allowing access to Coromandel Town and Whitianga. 

State Highway 25 between Waihi and Whangamata is also now open. 

However SH25A, Kopu Hikuai Road, is closed and will be for some hours yet, police say. 

SH25 south of Whitianga is closed near to Wade Road, preventing travel between Tairua and Whitianga. 

Victoria Rd near intersection with Bellevue Rd is closed with felled trees and powerlines and expected to be shut for until about 6pm. 

SH29 over the Kamai Range was closed this morning as was SH30 through Benneydale. 

SH36, Tauranga Direct Road, is closed due to a slip. Contractors have advised police the road is likely to remain closed overnight. 

Police urge caution on all coastal roads, saying the tide is coming in and High Tide may well cause further road closures. 

Police say the electronic signs at Thames are currently incorrect and are unable to be changed due to a technical issue, and motorists should ignore the message on this sign for the time being. 

"With a heavy rain warning in place, no matter where you are or where you intend going, Police ask that you use extreme caution and ask your self, while the weather is deteriorating, is your trip really necessary?" says Mr Van De Wetering.He says with rain forecast to continue overnight and a number of tidal changes, flooding is expected to worsen, and motorists are urged to check roading conditions tomorrow before heading out. 

 

Flockton Basin again fighting flooding

20 April 2014 – The Press 

Evacuated Flockton Basin residents have returned to their homes to once again try and fight the floods. 

Christchurch was hit with about 65 millimetres of rain across the city overnight as part of the major storm tearing through the South Island today. 

Although the damage is not as bad as last month, properties in the area are yet again submerged in knee-high water. 

Alison Naylor moved out of her Francis Ave house after it was inundated with water in March. 

Last night, she drove past her empty home to assess the situation. 

''I didn't have gumboots big enough to even get up to the house,'' she said. 

''This proves to me and a whole lot of other people that this is not a one-in-100-year flood - this is a one-in-a-month-and-a-half flood now.'' 

Rose and Stephen Lennon also returned to their Carrick St home last night to sandbag their garage and try to protect the belongings they have stored inside. 

When their 4WD pulled into the driveway about 8.30pm the water was already up to the car doors, Rose Lennon said. 

This morning, the water had seeped into the garage and was once again rising up to the floorboards beneath their house, she said. 

The couple are currently living in a short-term rental while their home is, ironically, flood-repaired. 

''They are going to fix it up and make it all pretty so we can move back in only to have it flood again. We are screwed,'' she said. 

''Why don't they just pay us out and let us get on with our lives?" 

Their house has not felt like a home since last month's flooding, she said. 

''It's like someone has burgled the house and they could come back again. It's that feeling like your privacy and life has been invaded.'' 

Jo Byrne, of Carrick St, also returned in the rain last night to help sandbag her neighbour's houses. 

''It's not nearly as bad as last time, I haven't heard that anyone has been actually flooded out this time, but everyone is just sitting tight and hoping the rain will stop,'' she said. 

Diane Shannon is one of the few residents still living in Carrick St. 

In last month's flood, the water seeped inside her home. 

This time round she has been watching it slowly rise around her, completely submerging her garden and now covering the first step to her front door. 

Shannon can do little more than hope it won't go any further.

 

Rising sea threatens city's tap water

22 April 2014 – Dominion Post 

The future of Wellington's drinking water supply could be under threat from rising sea levels, new research warns. 

The region could be forced to spend tens of millions of dollars relocating water bores to tap alternative sources as salt water encroaches on a major underground aquifer, Unitec Institute of Technology researcher Gregory De Costa has found. 

Up to 40 per cent of the region's drinking water comes from a large aquifer under the Hutt Valley drawn up from pumping stations, many of which are coastal and low-lying. 

That freshwater source supplies more than 100 million litres a day and is connected to the ocean with downward pressure from the water flowing downhill keeping the salt-free groundwater of the Waiwhetu aquifer from mixing with the sea beneath it. 

But as sea levels continue to rise over the next several decades, this balance will be thrown out. Increasingly, sea water could contaminate drinking water supplies at coastal pumps, De Costa's research showed. 

"We need to manage the pumping of the water so exploitation doesn't take place to the extent that we degenerate the aquifer," he said. 

It was vital authorities like Greater Wellington Regional Council, responsible for drinking water in the city, Porirua and the Hutt Valley, understood how mounting oceans would affect its aquifers, he said. 

Pumping stations closer to the ocean could be moved upstream and the aquifer carefully monitored, with cut-off points introduced, he said. 

"If the water drops below a certain point you stop pumping." 

Developing alternative water sources could cost between $30 million for additional storage lakes to $150m for a brand new source and treatment plant. 

Wellington Harbour is currently experiencing the largest sea level rise in the country - about 2mm a year. 

One cause was climate change, but the city was also sinking into the ocean, according to NIWA scientists. 

Slow-slip seismic movement - essentially earthquakes happening over a weeks or months - in the last few decades were thought to be behind the city's drop. By the end of the century, the sea could rise 0.8m. 

Greater Wellington water supply general manager Chris Laidlow said modelling to capture the impact on the Hutt Valley aquifer would be completed in the next few months. 

That would help the regional council understand when they would have to reduce the levels of water pumped from the Waiwhetu source. "It will bring forward the need for a new source."

In the next 15 to 20 years, the council was planning to spend $30m building water storage lakes at Kaitoke as another drinking water resource. But under current estimates, it was not thought rising seas would have a significant impact on water supplies until the 2060s, he said. 

But boosted oceans levels will have another unpleasant side-effect, especially for residents of Petone. 

With the groundwater table pushed up by sea-water, the low-lying suburb will be more prone to flooding. 

"Under climate change, we're not only seeing the sea level rising, but waves and storm surges becoming greater and greater. The ocean will be beating in on certain days of the year." 

The city's reliance on the Waiwhetu aquifer could also be put to the test following a major quake. 

A report by GNS Science released earlier this year showed the liquefaction zones were much further north than expected, meaning many pumps could be knocked out of action.

 

Daring river rescue in wild Easter storm

18 April 2014 - New Zealand Herald 

A woman had to be saved from raging floodwaters in north Otago as a wild Easter storm ripped through the South Island, blowing roofs off houses, demolishing several buildings and causing widespread power outages. 

Weather from ex-tropical cyclone Ita bore down across the country yesterday and overnight, bringing flooding and slips in many areas. 

A woman and her car were swept away by floodwater after the Kakanui River in North Otago burst its banks at the Five Forks bridge in the storm. 

Emergency services were notified by a passerby who saw a woman on the roof of her car in the water. 

The flood proved too tough for a four wheel drive tractor to reach her but, after about two hours huddled on the roof of her car, a digger managed to get out to her car and she scrambled into the bucket helped by Oamaru Police Sergeant Peter Muldrew. 

About 11am, Roda Inez Carlene Davidson, from Fuschia Creek, had crossed the bridge and drove into floodwaters on the way to her job at Oamaru KFC. 

Misjudging the depth and speed of the water crossing the road north of the bridge, her car was swept downstream but, fortunately, got caught in a fence. 

About 11.51am, police, two fire units from Weston and Oamaru, St John and local farmers had arrived to help. 

A four wheel drive tractor started out to reach her, but the water was too strong and deep for it to get off the road and close to the car. 

Meanwhile, water continued to rise with the Kakanui River hitting a peak of almost 600 cumecs just upstream at Clifton Falls. The fence was also shifting slightly as time went by. 

The decision was then made by rescuers to bring in the 14-tonne digger driven by local farmer Robert Borst. As back-up, contractor Tim Walton brought out his jet-boat and the Otago regional Rescue helicopter was on its way. 

The digger went out to test the road and water, then returned to pick up Sgt Muldrew to go in the bucket to help the woman. They had to be careful not to touch power lines above the car which, although they had been shut down, could not be guaranteed not to be live. 

Mr Borst said the digger, when it got to the car, was almost at its maximum depth to operate in water. He managed to get close enough to get the bucket out to the car at almost full extension. 

Mr Muldrew said Mrs Davidson started to stand on the roof, but he told her to crawl over. After sitting in heavy rain and a strong, cold wind for about two hours, she had difficulty getting into the bucket. 

"I told her to lean over as far as possible and then I helped her to roll in," he said. 

Just as she got in the bucket the helicopter arrived as back-up rescue, but was not needed. 

After Mrs Davidson was rescued, she was helped to a St John Ambulance where she was treated for hypothermia and then taken to Oamaru Hospital where she was also treated then discharged. 

Her husband Brian was unaware of the drama and did not hear about his wife's mishap for about four hours until she was in hospital. 

He was cut-off by flood waters and could not get to Oamaru to bring her home, so she was staying with friends. 

"She's been through that way before when it has been flooding, but I guess the road may have been swept away or the water was too fast this time," he said. 

Mrs Davidson was grateful to her rescuers and expressed her thanks. but did not want to comment further. 

 

Greymouth hit hard 

The West Coast was one of the worst hit areas, with winds of 140km/hr ripping through the district. Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said 60 houses had roofs blown off in the wind yesterday and large rainfall was forecast for tomorrow. 

"We are in full recovery mode racing against time against the weather. We've got an aircraft hangar with planes in it that has been totally demolished and a hall in Greymouth that has been totally demolished. 

"Luckily the CBD area is not badly affected so it's business as usual but the damage to the residential parts of Greymouth is certainly large." 

Mr Kokshoorn said the district would not be declaring a state of emergency because there was no threat of loss of life. 

There is over 100mm of rain forecast to fall in Greymouth tomorrow and firefighters and the public are racing to secure tarpaulins on houses. 

"We'll get there. We've had to learn to be resilient and this is one more time we will all just whip together to get us up and running again." 

Last night 28 people sheltered in an emergency evacuation centre at the Greymouth Baptist Church and Mr Kokshoorn said he expected more people to be staying in the centre tonight.

Red Cross volunteers from Christchurch and the West Coast provided food, water and shelter for the 20-strong group, left stranded after the Cobden Bridge was closed due to high winds. 

Doug Winter, a volunteer who came from Christchurch to help, described the wind as "horrendous". 

"We kept them fed and watered, nice and warm until they could go back to their houses. 

Fire Service southern communications shift manager Andrew Norris said teams were working to secure properties, before the next predicted deluge tomorrow. 

Most of our damage is from Greymouth up to Granity, north of Westport, he said. 

"We are assisting people to check their roofs and to make everything watertight - damaged roofs and things like that from the wind - because there's more heavy rain expected there tomorrow."

 

Nelson hospital damaged 

In Nelson, emergency services and workers are in "clean up mode" following damage from the extreme weather, the local Civil Defence said and Emergency Management (CDEM) group said. 

Part of the roof from Nelson Hospital has been blown off, and authorities have closed Waimea Rd as they deal with the damage. 

"Emergency services and contractors have spent the night, and will spend most of today clearing roads, of fallen trees and assisting in clean up. 

"There is still a need to be vigilant as more rain is predicted, with the Golden Bay area already receiving the second round of forecasted rainfall," CDEM said. 

River levels in the region, particularly the Anatoki, Waingaro and the Aorere were rising, with road closures predicted at the Waitapu splash and Kotinga bridge around midday with the high tide. 

Drivers in the region should take extreme care, with some roads down to one lane in places. 

Nelson Hospital duty manager and incident controller, Hilary Exton, said a "significant part of the roof had come away and was hanging down the side of the building" this morning. 

While emergency services were called, patients were removed from any areas at risk and the area below the unsecure roofing had been cleared. 

"We moved all patients from ICU through to the recovery area into a safe place. "The ICU now is closed until we get the all clear to go back in." 

"We've also had a couple of areas on one ward that was close to the area that was affected and we closed a couple of those bed areas," Mrs Exton said. 

All patients were stable and supported, and hospital services had not been affected. 

It was not yet known when the broken part of the roof would be fixed, with work to secure the overhang occurring this afternoon, she said. 

 

Christchurch soaked again 

Christchurch was hit with about 65 millimetres of rain across the city overnight as part of the major storm tearing through the South Island today. The Christchurch City Council said the worst of the rain, which had caused the Heathcote River to flood, had passed. 

While the city's rivers were all running high, with the Heathcote River reaching nearly two metres above normal levels about 1pm today, levels were beginning to ease with the slower rainfall. 

There had also been isolated flooding across the city, and council workers were currently working to clear drains to assist with the situation. Evacuated Flockton Basin residents have returned to their homes to once again try and fight the floods. Although the damage is not as bad as last month, properties in the area are yet again submerged in knee-high water. 

Slips have closed the road to Christchurch's Lyttelton Tunnel, the local council advises Areas of Heathcote Valley were experiencing particular difficulties, as run-off water from the hills washed through the Bridle Path. 

In Lyttelton, contractors were working to make the site around a slip on Canterbury St safe. Engineers were also checking the Port Hills for small localised slips, and monitoring areas known to be at risk of "mass movement," the council said. 

Residents on about 15 streets in the suburb were also facing water supply issues, after the water pipe feeding the Quarry Reservoir had been washed away. 

"Council contractors are providing a water tanker for people affected, which will be parked outside the Lyttelton Fire Station in London Street," the council said. 

"The Council is asking Lyttelton residents and the rest of Banks Peninsula to conserve water as the adverse weather event will impact on local streams and affect water quality," it said. 

'It's not going to be easy returning my rental car,' says the reader who sent us this photo of Aynsley Tce in Christchurch. 

Firefighters around the Bay of Plenty had already dealt with two rounds of thunderstorms this morning. 

"A couple of hours between about 6 and 8am, there was a thunderstorm which went through Mt Maunganui, Tauranga, Te Puke, Papamoa. We had 28 jobs for weather-related events, mainly flooding," Fire Service northern communications shift manager Scott Osmond said. 

A second storm front was expected to come through mid-morning, sparking another round of call-outs in the area, he said. 

 

Easter unplugged: Power outages hit thousands 

Around 10,000 people were without power due to the wild weather this morning. 

In Christchurch, Orion NZ said 3,181 customers were off the network. 

The West Coast had an estimated 1000 customers without power, 500 south of Hari Hari and around the same number in the Greymouth area. 

Chief executive for West Power Rob Caldwell said crews were hoping to restore power to most people, however some some customers would probably have to spend tonight in the dark. 

In Auckland, Vector lines crews had recently restored power to about 1000 people in Helensville. 

However, about1300 customers in Kaipara, Puhoi, Kawau Island and Takatu as well as about 1000 Northlanders were still without power. 

A spokesperson for Top Energy said most of its customers were expected to have power by the end of the day. 

In Rotorua, Unison Power had about 1500 customers affected. It hoped to have but hoped to 800 customers around Lake Tarawera reconnected this afternoon. 

Hawke's Bay had pockets of people without power, most in rural areas due to trees falling on lines. 

Some regional flights have been affected by the weather. Holidaymakers concerned about their flights should check with the airline. 

 

Weather-related road closures: 

* SH 53 Featherston to Martinborough: road closed due to flooding at the Waihenga River bridge 

* SH 36 Mangorewa Gorge: road closed due to slip blocking traffic in both directions 

* SH 36 Dudley Rd to Hamurana junction: road closed due to slip 

* SH 1 Ward to Kaikoura: road closed due to flooding, high winds, slips and debris 

* SH 75 Christchurch Akaroa Rd: road closed due to flooding between Little River and Barrys Bay 

* SH 6 Ross to Haast: Road Closed due to strong winds and fallen trees

 

Swept away tourist: 'She got churned around'

18 April 2014 - New Zealand Herald 

A French tourist swept away after slipping into a raging Woolshed Creek late on Wednesday was washed over a terrifying two waterfalls before clambering out. 

The woman, originally thought to be German, stunned searchers when she walked into the Woolshed Creek car park in the Mid Canterbury high country at 7.45pm on Wednesday night - almost four hours after the alarm was raised - with only a few bumps and bruises to show for her remarkable ordeal. 

Methven Search and Rescue's Don Geddes said the woman was incredibly lucky to be alive; if she had not managed to cling on to rocks and pull herself out of the water at the point she did, she could well have ended up being washed into the South Ashburton River and out to sea, lost forever. 

The woman was walking the Mt Somers Walkway with her partner and they were only about 15 minutes away from their destination - Woolshed Creek hut - when she slipped into a stream which was raging due to recent rain, and was swept away. 

"Where it happened, normally you can step across without even getting a splash on your boots," Mr Geddes said. 

As the woman was swept away, her partner raced to Woolshed Creek hut where the alarm was raised via mountain radio shortly after 4pm and police, Methven Search and Rescue (SAR) and the alpine search and rescue team were deployed, but hopes were not high of finding her alive. It was cold, it was dark and they had no idea how far she had been swept downstream. 

So searchers were amazed by the story she had to tell when they got her back to their headquarters in Methven. She'd been washed over two waterfalls - the first about four metres high and the second about 10 metres high - and into the main Woolshed Creek. 

"She got churned around in there like she was in a washing machine," Mr Geddes said. 

Eventually she managed to grab some rocks and clamber out of the water and make her way back to the track. She was on the wrong side of the creek to go back to the hut, so she walked the estimated two hours - in the dark - back to the walkway's car park where searchers stationed there were amazed to see her appear at the end of a bridge. 

"If she had gone any further (in the water) she would have been flushed right through the canyon," Mr Geddes said. 

As it turned out she was only travelled about 350 metres in total after being swept away - the first waterfall was about 150 metres along, and the other another 150 metres along.

 

1940s Wellington apartment block survives mudslide

18 April 2014 - Dominion Post 

A 1945 high-end apartment block survived an onslaught of mud almost intact - but it's newly-built neighbour was not so lucky. 

Earth, tyres, tree branches and stormwater fell onto 118 Oriental Pde last night, after a deluge of rain. 

The building suffered only a broken window, but the slip flooded the neighbouring property, 120 Oriental Pde. Homeowner Sumi Taylor was in the house with her children at 9.30pm when water and mud began to pour on her property from the bank next door. 

"I was panicking. I was on the phone to my husband when I heard this rumbling sound." 

She saw dirt and debris had fallen onto the next-door apartments, but water continued to pour onto their section. With the rainwater tank unable to hold the deluge of water, firefighters had to knock a hole in the tank, flooding the muddy liquid through the Taylor's garage containing their car, children's toys and other stored possessions. 

They spent the night at the nearby Copthorne Hotel. 

"It was traumatic," she said of the mudslide. 

The family's multi-million dollar house featured on TV One show The Art of the Architect earlier this month. One building issue raised on the show was seepage from a Wellington City Council drain and a suspected stormwater leak. The Taylor family spent millions addressing these issues and securing the wall behind the property. The Earthquake Commission covers slip damage. An assessor would come to view the property in the next few days, Taylor said. 

The earth fell from a McFarlane St property about 10m above the apartment block next door to the Taylors.

Apartment owners Georges and Jeanette Westermayer were watching television when they heard the slip.

"It sounded like an explosion", Mrs Westermayer said. 

Neighbours in the property above the slip described the sound as thunder-like before they heard a "sickening cracking sound". 

The Westermayers' top-floor apartment suffered no damage. The only impact they saw was a window broken in the building's entrance hallway, she said. 

But with mountains of dirt, retaining materials and vegetation piled up behind their building, the Westermayers and their two sets of neighbours were evacuated about an hour after the slip. They spent the night with friends and returned to the property this morning, hoping they would be allowed back in. 

The all-clear for residents to return was given just before 1pm. 

Residents of the McFarlane St property were also evacuated overnight. 

"It's something you would never expect. It seemed very stable," Mrs Westermayer said. 

Their downstairs neighbours, John Culy and Mary Bogard, spent the night with friend Elizabeth Ellis, who lived in the apartment building on the other side of the slip. 

Ellis heard the "enormous prolonged crash" from her property, at 116 Oriental Pde. 

She said her friends were "a little shaken" by the slip. "I was feeling shaken. A hell of a lot of earth came down."

Council building engineers were on site this morning investigating the slip's impact on the structural integrity of the building, spokesman Clayton Anderson said. 

"They are confident that it's stable and there's no movement." 

The engineers would also investigate the cause of the slip, which was unknown at this stage, Anderson said. 

The wider cliff had also been assessed, and engineers had found nothing of concern.  

Another slip on Nottingham St in Karori this morning had blocked the road. 

MetService forecaster Dan Corbett said, with 113mm of rain falling in the city centre yesterday and last night, the ground was like a "sodden sponge". 

But with ex-Cyclone Ita passing over New Zealand, the downpours would continue. Another 30 to 50mm of rain would fall in Wellington today. The eastern hills could receive another 100mm, Corbett said. 

Once the band of rain passed tonight, things would improve slightly. "They'll be more spells of rain rather than wall-to-wall rain."

 

Mayhem for travellers as slips block highway

21 April 2014 - Marlborough Express 

Frustrated motorists stranded after heavy rain closed State Highway 1 had to sleep in their cars as contractors worked to clear the road. 

Kaikoura was thrown into turmoil after 140 millimetres of rain on Thursday afternoon caused 30 slips on the highway between Kaikoura and Picton. 

Motorists from Christchurch heading to Marlborough for Easter were forced to turn back or stay in Kaikoura, where internet and phone lines were down from Thursday evening to Saturday morning. 

Ruth Fisher had been travelling from Christchurch to spend Easter with her sister and father in Blenheim. She had hoped to reach Blenheim by 8.30pm on Thursday but the highway closure delayed her arrival by about 20 hours. 

"Driving was incredibly hard," Fisher said. "It was torrential rain. You couldn't see what was on the road. If there was someone in front you had to watch their brake lights. You really couldn't see where the hazards were. 

"The biggest problem was the mud which washed down from driveways and the banks. Cars were getting stuck in it." 

Fisher and about 50 other motorists and truckers were forced to spent Thursday night at a truck stop at Clarence. 

"We got five minutes past Clarence when we were stopped and waited there for one hour. We were turned around because we couldn't get any further and went back to Clarence. About midnight we were woken to say we couldn't stay at the truck stop and would have to go back to Kaikoura." 

About 15 cars left to return to Kaikoura but were turned back again to Clarence after a large washout caused cars to get stuck. 

Mobile phone coverage, internet and radios were down and motorists depended on information from roadworkers. 

"By that stage nobody knew anything. A roadworker tried to keep us informed. Information was minimal." 

Fisher reached Kaikoura on Friday at 9.30am and said the traffic was chaotic. "There were trucks everywhere and all the motels were booked out." 

On Friday morning the Kaikoura i-Site fielded a deluge of inquiries from people stuck in town without phone or internet coverage. 

Kaikoura District Council civil defence officer Kd Scattergood said information was shared between the emergency services and volunteers as well as with the i-Site and radio. A satellite phone was set up and there was also radio contact with the police. 

"The i-Site staff and council staff were brilliant - people just came in [to the council offices] and started helping. Downer and the police worked all night to get the road open, which was amazing, not to mention the Chorus guys who got the communications back up incredibly quickly." 

 

Families trapped in storm-hit valleys

21 April 2014 – Nelson Mail 

Several families in the hills west of the Motueka Valley remain stranded by floods and washouts after being lashed by storms late last week. 

Residents up the Baton Valley, at the confluence of the Baton and Wangapeka rivers and up the Graham Valley are all cut off from services and supplies. Civil Defence and Tasman District Council staff will be helicoptering into the isolated areas today to assess their situation. 

Eight Graham Valley residents are stranded at the top of the valley after a flood washed away their only access to the outside world. 

Karsten Schroeder, who has lived there for 17 years, said heavy rains on Thursday night caused the Graham River to rise so high that it washed out the rebuilt road that was opened last November, 16 months after a massive slip had closed the road. 

This time it was rising waters, not falling rocks, that cut off the three families who live above the steep, troubled gorge section of road that accesses Kahurangi National Park. 

"The road is completely destroyed. The road isn't buried, it has gone," said Schroeder. 

He had been keeping a close eye on the river in recent heavy rains, and said that on Wednesday, the river was black, not brown. It was rising rapidly and had washed away the small hydro schemes each of the families maintain for their power. They are all using back-up generators now.

Schroeder said the river was the highest he had seen it, and he had been told by a longer-term resident that it was the worst he had seen since 1976. 

The Tasman District Council does not keep rainfall records for the Graham Valley but late last week the neighbouring watershed, the Baton River, recorded the highest rainfall since records began, a one-in-50-year deluge. 

Even though the Graham River had washed away the rebuilt road, early in the storm residents were able to use the top of the rock retaining wall that had been built across the toe of the slip to reach a vehicle they had left below the slip site. But continued rain made the slip more active and that one escape route was now too dangerous to use. 

Schroeder said the top of the makeshift path had crumbled and pedestrians faced a stark choice: "Either you can fall into the wild river or into chest high mud." 

Although the Graham Valley families are well-prepared for rugged living, he was concerned fuel supplies for the back-up generators may not last. 

TDC spokesman Chris Choat said the council had been in contact with the isolated residents in all three locations but that until they could assess the flood damage today, it was too early to say how soon access could be restored. Fulton Hogan had been working on the road yesterday and would be again today. He said there had been a request for supplies to be choppered in but did not know the status of them this morning. 

The news of a helicopter visit was a relief for Schroeder. He said that if today's fine weather held, then the slip may calm to the point where they could use the rock wall pathway to get to their car later this week, although the Schroeders are the only one of the three families who had a car accessible. 

The Department of Conversation has closed a number of tracks in the region including the Heaphy Track due to trees falling in the storm's winds and parts of the track being impassable. 

The Wangapeka Track was closed after the West Coast side was damaged in the storm and DOC suspected the access road might also have felt the brunt of the storm. 

Trampers are advised to avoid the Abel Tasman Inland Track, which is closed as parts of the track are impassable and difficult to follow. 

DOC late this morning asked that no trampers start the Heaphy due to extensive damage there. They are working as quickly as possible to clean up the storm's mess and will file an update once the track reopens. 

The Nelson Mountain Bike Club has advised mountainbikers to stay off the tracks in Codger's Park, which "took the brunt of the storm" in this part of the region. 

It reported trees down on other tracks, such as the Grampians trails, and has updates on their Facebook page about the state of the region's tracks. 

Meanwhile, Nelson arborists have not had a chance to enjoy the Easter break. 

Richard and Louise Walsh, owners of Nelson Tree Service Ltd said they were "pretty busy" with all six of their staff attending jobs across the city including in the Brook Valley, Victory, the Glen, Collingwood St, Seymour Ave, Waimea Rd, and at Nelson Intermediate and Nelson College. 

Louise Walsh said the storm had caused a lot of carnage. 

"It's a bit sad some of these trees [came down] because they are beautiful old trees. There is a tree on Mount St which is absolutely massive that came down," she said. 

Walsh said in some ways it was fortunate it was a public holiday weekend as people were away, making the roads less busy while they cleaned up after the storm. 

Their arborists were assisting in removing one

 

More erosion prevention along the upper Waikato River needed

21 April 2014 - Yahoo News 

This weekend's stormy weather is likely to mean more erosion, on farms along the upper Waikato River. 

Research from the Waikato Regional Council shows heavy rain is pushing topsoil into the river, affecting long term water quality. 

Taupo councillor Kathy White has seen the effect of a storm before Christmas first-hand. 

"The river was chocolate coloured, the sediment was really quite high what it ends up doing is smothering parts of the river which are important for aquatic organisms." 

The council says many local landowners are keen to do their bit, to prevent further erosion. 

Ms White says there are simple things landowners can do, to protect the river long-term. 

She says land can be contoured, stop banks can be put up, and river banks can be planted up.

Pumice soils, which are common in the Taupo area, are particularly vulnerable to erosion during heavy rain.

 

No quick fixes for flooding victims

21 April 2014 - The Press 

Christchurch's political leaders cannot promise any quick fixes for residents fed up with the repeated flooding of their properties. 

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said yesterday the latest round of flooding was frustrating and solving the problem was a top priority. 

Houses in the Flockton basin, Heathcote River area and Lyttelton were again submerged in knee-deep water after Friday's wild storm - the second time the areas have flooded in the past six weeks.  

Christchurch City Council has two possible engineering solutions for the worst-hit area of Flockton basin - either widening and deepening Dudley Creek or installing pump stations. 

Both options would cost more than $50 million and take more than two years to implement. 

Weary residents, some of whom have been flooded out of their homes up to five times since the earthquakes, said two years was too long to wait. Dalziel agreed. 

However, she could only promise that by Thursday the council would have a timeline for the initial decision-making process. 

''I want all the options on the table so we can consider them all. This isn't straightforward, it is highly complex and I have literally got officials within council working night and day to try and find all possible solutions.'' 

This could result in a range of different options for affected homeowners, such as lifting the floor levels of some homes and retreating in other areas. 

Flooded residents had asked the council about potentially red-zoning their homes. 

Dalziel said the council did not have the power to do so. 

Under the Public Works Act, the council only has the power to compulsorily acquire the properties. 

When the Government red-zoned homes after the quakes, there was no criteria to include increased vulnerability to flooding, she said. 

However, the Earthquake Commission (EQC) was now measuring that factor. 

''I am not lobbying the Government to red-zone these homes but now EQC is including increased vulnerability to flood risk as a measure of land damage and perhaps [the Government] would consider this also. 

"Now would be the right time to ask them to do that,'' Dalziel said. 

Brownlee told The Press yesterday that Christchurch's flooding problems were in the council's hands. 

The Government was willing to help hasten regulatory processes and ''explore cost sharing'' in areas where flooding had been exacerbated by the quakes, in order to speed up the work. 

For identifying appropriate solutions and getting the work started, ''the ball is in the council's court'', he said. 

''As yet we have seen no formal proposals from the council on how or when this work might take place, nor how much it would cost,'' Brownlee said. 

''I do, however, see reaching a decision about flood mitigation proposals as a priority, and it's this that needs to be understood and settled ahead of any talk of retreat or red zoning.''

 

Fed-up Heathcote residents want action

21 April 2014 - The Press 

Christchurch’s flooded Heathcote River area residents feel forgotten. Despite being submerged in knee-deep water twice in the past six weeks, authorities have offered no potential solutions or given residents in the area any timeframe as to when a decision about their homes will be made. 

The Heathcote River burst its banks in the March floods and again last Friday, with water seeping into homes and closing roads in the area. 

The Christchurch City Council has come up with two possible options for reducing flooding in the Flockton basin area. 

Possible remedial work includes deepening and widening Dudley Creek or installing pump stations. Both options cost more than $50 million and will take at least two years. 

However, affected homeowners in Beckenham, St Martins, Sydenham and Opawa have heard nothing. 

Residents who live along Heathcote River have put up with flooding problems for years. 

Heavy rain would block the drains and flood the streets regularly, said Peter Williams, who owns a house along the river. 

Since before the quakes, Williams' garage would flood at least half a dozen times a year. 

Now, with the river quake-damaged and thick with silt, the water in his garage has risen to more a metre. 

"The amount of water we had last week and a month ago are way more then we have ever had before," he said. 

Neighbour Joanne Bos said many people in the area felt as if they had been "forgotten" by the authorities. 

Water seeped into several homes with the March floods and Bos' car, which was stuck in her garage, was also written off with water damage. 

"With every heavy rainfall it will continue to flood and they [the authorities] haven't come up with any plans. We have heard nothing. No word from them at all," she said. 

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel saw firsthand the problems in the Heathcote area on Friday. 

"What I saw in Heathcote and Lyttelton on Friday was not the same issue as Flockton and I want to know exactly what has happened in those two areas. They are priorities as well," she said. 

Dalziel said she would ask for a report on flooding problems in Heathcote and Lyttelton. 

Whenever Riverlaw Terrace resident Niki Burns feels the rain she "freaks out". 

"You just don't know what's going happen," she said. 

In the March floods she lost her car and had to evacuate her home. Three of her neighbours had moved out after that event. 

"They talk about Flockton but you don't hear about this place."

 

Flash flooding traps motorist in Levin

22 April 2014 – Manawatu Standard 

A flash flood in Levin during peak hour traffic trapped a person in their car, flooded houses and streets, and washed out a rest home cafeteria. 

The downpour moved north through Horowhenua about 5pm, reaching Palmerston North at 6pm. 

Fire central communications shift manager Mike Wanoa said brigades were still in the area sandbagging and pumping water out of houses. 

Brigades attended incidents at the Horowhenua Masonic Village, Highbury Drive, Fairfield Rd and Argyle St. 

"Just before 5pm there was a car trapped in flood water with a person inside, the water was nearly up to the windscreen," he said. "We treated it as a risky situation. By the time we got there the person was out of the car." 

Wanoa said pumps were being used at the Masonic Village to keep water out of the dining and cafeteria area. 

Police central communications acting shift inspector Chris Tate said police responded to a person stuck in their car in Levin about 5pm. 

He said the flash flood was due to a heavy build up of water following a downpour in the area.

 

Rising sea threatens Wellington's tap water

22 April 2014 – Dominion Post 

The future of Wellington's drinking water supply could be under threat from rising sea levels, new research warns. 

The region could be forced to spend tens of millions of dollars relocating water bores to tap alternative sources as salt water encroaches on a major underground aquifer, Unitec Institute of Technology researcher Gregory De Costa has found. 

Up to 40 per cent of the region's drinking water comes from a large aquifer under the Hutt Valley drawn up from pumping stations, many of which are coastal and low-lying. 

That freshwater source supplies more than 100 million litres a day and is connected to the ocean with downward pressure from the water flowing downhill keeping the salt-free groundwater of the Waiwhetu aquifer from mixing with the sea beneath it. 

But as sea levels continue to rise over the next several decades, this balance will be thrown out. Increasingly, sea water could contaminate drinking water supplies at coastal pumps, De Costa's research showed. 

"We need to manage the pumping of the water so exploitation doesn't take place to the extent that we degenerate the aquifer," he said. 

It was vital authorities like Greater Wellington Regional Council, responsible for drinking water in the city, Porirua and the Hutt Valley, understood how mounting oceans would affect its aquifers, he said. 

Pumping stations closer to the ocean could be moved upstream and the aquifer carefully monitored, with cut-off points introduced, he said. 

"If the water drops below a certain point you stop pumping." 

Developing alternative water sources could cost between $30 million for additional storage lakes to $150m for a brand new source and treatment plant. 

Wellington Harbour is currently experiencing the largest sea level rise in the country - about 2mm a year. 

One cause was climate change, but the city was also sinking into the ocean, according to NIWA scientists. 

Slow-slip seismic movement - essentially earthquakes happening over a weeks or months - in the last few decades were thought to be behind the city's drop. By the end of the century, the sea could rise 0.8m. 

Greater Wellington water supply general manager Chris Laidlow said modelling to capture the impact on the Hutt Valley aquifer would be completed in the next few months. 

That would help the regional council understand when they would have to reduce the levels of water pumped from the Waiwhetu source. "It will bring forward the need for a new source." 

In the next 15 to 20 years, the council was planning to spend $30m building water storage lakes at Kaitoke as another drinking water resource. But under current estimates, it was not thought rising seas would have a significant impact on water supplies until the 2060s, he said. 

But boosted oceans levels will have another unpleasant side-effect, especially for residents of Petone. 

With the groundwater table pushed up by sea-water, the low-lying suburb will be more prone to flooding. 

"Under climate change, we're not only seeing the sea level rising, but waves and storm surges becoming greater and greater. The ocean will be beating in on certain days of the year." 

The city's reliance on the Waiwhetu aquifer could also be put to the test following a major quake. 

A report by GNS Science released earlier this year showed the liquefaction zones were much further north than expected, meaning many pumps could be knocked out of action.

 

Flood-hit farmers face 'massive task'

23 April 2014 – Marlborough Express 

Farmers and grapegrowers along the East Coast are facing a huge clean-up task following last week's torrential rain, community representatives say. 

Labour's Kaikoura electorate candidate Janette Walker said she had driven up the side roads between Kaikoura and Kekerengu, and there was a "massive task" ahead for farmers hit by flooding last week. "There are some farmers who have had access to their houses cut off; yards full of silt; no water for stock; Clarence and Kaikoura water schemes destroyed; roads completely decimated by flooding, silt and landslides; gates buried in silt; fence lines full of debris." 

She said the priority for farmers was to assess the damage, get access to their farms, ensure their own physical and mental safety, and work out how to continue with their normal farm programme, while protecting their economic viability. 

"The stress for these farmers and their families is huge and they need central government support. The task ahead is too big and costly for individuals to manage on their own. 

"Having experienced the 2004 Manawatu weather bomb myself, I understand fully the complexities of the problems these farmers face and understand how overwhelming the task ahead will be. 

"Fortunately in 2004, the government very quickly initiated a response that assisted farmers to recover, but it still took 18 months before all farms were operational again. Walker said that, at the very least, Taskforce Green workers should be recruited for basic tasks such as clearing silt off fences. 

Marlborough Rural Support Trust co-ordinator Ian Blair said he had received calls from "one or two in a bit of strife". 

There had been about nine calls in total over the weekend, including from vineyards where grapes had been damaged by the rain. There had been major effects on some grapegrowers, he said, and there were problems with fences and access to farms on the Clarence coast. 

The trust had not requested any assistance following the storm. He said the weather damage was in too small an area for it to be declared "an adverse effect". While bad for individual farmers, it did not have a big enough economic impact for the Government to get involved. 

North Canterbury Rural Support Trust chairman Derrick Millton said there was only one house damaged by water, inland at Kekerengu, that he knew of. There was a lot of road damage, but Kaikoura District Council contractors had opened all council roads yesterday. Weather data collected by Plant & Food showed that, on Thursday, 149.88 millimetres of rain fell at Kekerengu and 137mm in Ward.

 

Heavy rain, flooding again in Christchurch

29 April 2014 – The Press 

A council taskforce has been given three weeks to come up with solutions for Christchurch's flood-affected areas, says Mayor Lianne Dalziel.

 Her comment follows Prime Minister John Key's statement that the Government was prepared to help homeowners in flood-prone areas but was still waiting for a council proposal. 

Heavy rain in Christchurch overnight, easing to a steady drizzle this afternoon, has seen rivers spill their banks, flooded streets and inundated homes for the third time in 10 weeks. 

The city council said flooding was worse than expected despite the MetService yesterday warning that up to 50mm of rain could fall. 

Prime Minister John Key, who was due to visit Christchurch this afternoon, told Newstalk ZB that the Government was not in a position to decide whether any further parts of Christchurch would be red-zoned. 

"We're not in a position to make that decision yet. Ultimately this has the potential to affect hundreds and hundreds of homeowners and I can't tell you if the right answer is red zone." 

The Government was "prepared to help", but the Christchurch City Council needed to take the lead, he said. 

"We still haven't received a proposal from the council yet and we need to get that proposal. 

"It can't go on like this. It's a ridiculous scenario for people and they're entitled to know what can be done to fix it." 

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel told Newstalk ZB that a council taskforce had been given three weeks to come up with temporary and "intermediate" solutions for flood-affected residents. 

The taskforce was announced last week. 

 "We had money in the budget for the work on Dudley Creek. The trouble is that it takes two years to deliver the project," she said. 

"Our city faces this enormous challenge and it is bigger than Flockton and it is going to require us to come up with some temporary solutions as well as those long-term solutions. 

"I can't say exactly what they're going to be, but we've got everyone working on this as hard as we can."

 

EXHAUSTED RESIDENTS HIT AGAIN 

Several streets in the area in and around the Flockton Basin have flooded for the third time in less than two months. 

Lindsay Rush's home on Slater St has flooded nine times since the February 2011 earthquake. "We laugh at them, but I get a wee bit frustrated," he said. 

Rush had lived in the house since 2009 and said it never flooded before the earthquakes. 

Flockton Basin resident Julie Cairns said the floodwaters were only half a centimetre off entering her Archer St home this morning, but it was not as bad as it had been during other recent flooding events. 

One of her toilets had been "taken out" because it was slightly lower than the rest of her house, but her sleepout had not been flooded this time. 

"If I still had my car though - which I don't because I lost it in the March flood - I couldn't drive up the street." 

Jo Byrne left her Carrick St home after the March 5 storm that caused widespread flooding across Christchurch. 

Her home was one of about 80 inundated with water during that event, most in the Flockton area. 

Chris Timbs has been at his Edgeware butchery since 3.30am, trying to keep the floodwaters out of his shop. 

The Peter Timbs store was closed today, but staff expected to be at the site all day as they worked to remove water from the Edgeware Rd building. 

"Sandbags have helped, but unfortunately it's above the foundations so it's coming in from the sides," Chris Timbs said. 

A burst water main in Rose St this morning flooded Cashmere High School and forced the evacuation of one home. 

Addington Fire Brigade station officer Murray Jamieson said the flooding had brought up mud "like liquefaction". 

"It's turbulent. It's like Cook Strait in a major storm," he said. 

Amir Hassan, his wife, and their five children under 5, evacuated their home about 9am after the torrent broke their fence and water spilled through to the back of the brand new property, where they have lived only four months.

 

FLOODWATERS MAY BE CONTAMINATED 

The Christchurch City Council had geotechnical teams monitoring hillside areas for any signs of land instability including new cracking to land or buildings, existing cracks getting bigger, leaning or bulging of retaining walls, and rockfalls. 

The council hjas also warned that floodwaters could be contaminated, and advised residents to avoid the water where possible or make sure to wash their hands and remove and wash any clothing that got wet. 

Numerous streets across the city and Banks Peninsula were closed due to flooding. 

 

BANKS PENINSULA HIT 

Businesses and residents in Akaroa, Duvauchelle and Little River were yesterday still cleaning up from the last flooding 10 days ago, but had to restart the job after being inundated with water again today. 

Little River Garage owner Malcolm Ussher said he planned to go home for a cup of coffee and "wait for the water to go away".  

About 20cm of water had flooded the front of his garage, while a smaller volume had gone through the workshop at the back. 

"We left everything up on Sunday because they said it was going to hit us yesterday at 6am." 

He was tempted to leave everything up high after being flooded three times in less than three months. "But you can't really trade like that." 

Ussher said he hoped to reopen the garage later today when the floodwaters receded, to "help our local customers".  

Further south, North Otago and South Canterbury were also hit hard by the severe weather. 

The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) has advised that State Highway 1 at Hilderthorpe, north of Oamaru is closed due to flooding today. 

NZTA also issued cautions for State Highway 83 between Pukeuri and Duntroon, State Highway 1 between Clarence and Hundalee, State Highway 75 between Little River and Akaroa and State Highway 8 between Twizel and Tekapo. 

Meanwhile a heavy rain warning for Dunedin was lifted last night. 

In the North Island, high winds were buffeting the capital this morning - however heavy showers forecast for the Tararua Ranges were expected to ease. 

Air New Zealand was warning of some minor flight delays in and out of Wellington due to the strong winds and low cloud. 

A Jetstar spokesman said there were no weather-related issues in Wellington this morning. 

Wellington Airport was notifying a 50 minute delay on the 8.10am Wellington to Christchurch Jetstar flight. 

Airways New Zealand spokeswoman Philippa Sellens said Wellington air traffic control was leaving a slightly larger gap between planes in Wellington this morning for safety reasons. 

This could cause some delays but was ''perfectly normal'' in poor weather she said.

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