Water News July 2014

Avon River plans altered to avoid flooding

3 July 2014 – The Press

Some elements of the design plans for the new Avon River precinct have been altered amid concerns they could exacerbate flooding problems in the city.

As part of a $100 million project to regenerate the central city stretch of the Avon River, the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) is proposing to make significant ecological improvements to the waterway and its banks.

However, it has been forced to pare back some of its planned ecological restoration work because of the risk it could lead to increased flooding.

The CCDU recently took receipt of more than 1040 draft construction drawings for the stretch of river from Antigua Street through to Manchester Street and it is due to begin construction work next month.

The section of river in front of the retail precinct will be the first to be tackled.

A CCDU spokeswoman said among the significant ecological improvements planned were the planting of 1700 new trees and well over 100,000 new native plants.

''This is alongside the creation of new cycleways, terraces, boardwalks and a new city promenade that will be a defining feature of the central city for generations to come,'' she said

 

New water standards set too low, say critics

4 July 2014 – Dominion Post

Boaties and wading fishermen - though perhaps not swimmers - will be cheered by the Government's announcement that lakes and rivers will have to meet minimum water quality standards.

The standards, announced yesterday by Environment Minister Amy Adams and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy, aim to keep waterways clean enough to protect their ecosystems and suitable for human recreation, with regional plans in place by 2025.

However, the minimums the Government has chosen will keep water healthy enough for "secondary contact" - that is for boating or wading in - but not primary contact, such as swimming.

Critics argue that the Government has ignored the overwhelming public support for standards tight enough to keep rivers and lakes healthy enough to swim in.

For waterways in Wellington and Wairarapa, the announcement means councils will have to include proposals to meet the requirements in any future freshwater management plans. 

These plans must ensure certain baselines are not exceeded for toxins such as nitrate and environmental indicators such as E coli bacteria, dissolved oxygen, and periphyton blooms, Adams said. "Where the water quality is already above the national standard, it cannot be allowed to deteriorate."

While the Government will contribute $3 million annually for four years to help councils comply, it will be up to local authorities to regulate and police the standards.

Wellington City Council environment portfolio leader Iona Pannett said, with that figure spread nationally, the sum was paltry. She agreed that minimum water quality standards were long called for and aspirational, but warned getting waterways such as Wellington's degraded Karori Stream up to standard could come with a million-dollar price tag. "We have to balance the books somehow."

Massey University freshwater scientist Mike Joy said few lakes and almost no rivers were below the standards - and that was by design. "[The Government] made the rules to suit the rivers we've already got . . . It's twisting the science to suit the plan, which is to have more [agricultural] intensification."

Several key water health indicators - notably measures of invertebrates - were left out. On top, some baselines were set at the level that killed life in the waterways, he said. Some standards were even below what was found in China's notoriously polluted Yangtze River.

But Federated Farmers environment spokesman Ian Mackenzie said making the regime - which was already tough on farmers - any stronger would have "destroyed New Zealand's economy".

"The Government has walked the very tough tightrope between economic and social benefit and environmental gain. And I think they've got that pretty right."

In the framework, councils could be exempted from the minimum standards for waterways where "significant" infrastructure, such as hydroelectric power stations, or natural causes, such as native bird colonies, put water below the bottom lines.

Councils could also apply to be exempted if developing plans would place an "unmanageable burden" on them.

Green Party water spokeswoman Eugenie Sage said the Government ignored the 90 per cent of public submissions on the standards asking for lakes and rivers to be kept clean enough to swim in.

"We desperately need effective regulation that prevents further degradation and improves the quality of our rivers and lakes."

 

'Lethal combination' at Sounds forestry sites

4 July 2014 - Marlborough Express

A forest harvesting site in the Marlborough Sounds was wiped out by a huge storm, depositing piles of logs on beaches, a Marlborough District Council report says.

It showed the Marlborough Sounds was not the best place for forestry, with the combination of steep slopes, unstable geology, and high rainfall "a lethal combination", council environment committee chairman Peter Jerram said yesterday.

Jerram said a report considered by the committee at its last meeting looked at the effect of the intense pre-Easter storm on a forestry block in the outer Marlborough Sounds where a beach was left covered by logs.

The area was hit by severe rainstorms as the tail end of Cyclone Ita swept through on the Thursday before Easter, with a council rain gauge 10 kilometres west of the affected forestry block recording 182mm in 24 hours, the highest rainfall since records began there 20 years ago. Some skid sites on the block failed, causing large slips and soil loss, despite being constructed to required standards.

"This is what can happen in a well-managed and well-maintained forestry block and it shows that even a good operator cannot protect the environment from damage in this kind of weather. It's a big lesson for everyone doing business in the Sounds," Jerram said.

With weather forecasters predicting more such high-density rainstorms, the industry and the regulators must face up to the fact that the Sounds environment was unsuitable for some industries, he said.

"This is just one example of what can happen even when a company is complying with all its resource consent conditions and meeting the industry's best-practice standards. This should not be interpreted as a criticism of this company but it is a very clear message to us all that the Sounds environment is fragile and that it is not the best place for forestry.

The council was reviewing its resource management documents, including the Marlborough Sounds Resource Management Plan.

However, Jerram said there was no intention to introduce tough measures to restrict forestry plantings. Rather, the report had been considered in public-excluded parts of council meetings and he wanted to ensure people were aware of the issue.

The council had statutory responsibilities for soil and water conservation, he said.

Sounds residents had been surveyed last year, in what Jerram says was the "best responded-to survey" the council had ever run, and 84 per cent of people wanted stricter controls on forestry in the Sounds.

"The council is signalling that it should be carefully considered where that forestry goes."

Ron Sutherland, a Marlborough Forestry Industry Association representative, said the Sounds produced about 10 per cent of Marlborough's logs. About three sites were being harvested at the moment.

Marlborough was one of the bigger log-producing regions in the country, with about 1.5 million cubic metres of wood produced annually, from about 3000 hectares spread around the district.

The association had not seen the council report, and did not know where the site was. It was making inquiries, he said.

It was waiting to see what changes if any the council proposed to make to planning documents that affected forestry when those documents went out for consultation, Sutherland said.

"We would be concerned about controls in the Sounds in the long run. They have to be reasonable and manageable.

"It's not just forestry, but all land uses potentially have the same effect. Massive storms can affect any sort of land use or cover."

 

Lake accord launches monitoring boat

9 July 2014 - Manawatu Standard 

A small boat launched on Lake Horowhenua has marked a big step in efforts to clean up the polluted waterway. 

Named Te Tuna Tapu o Punahau, the boat will be used exclusively for monitoring work on the lake by parties to the Lake Horowhenua Accord.

Horizons Regional Council iwi policy analyst Kara Dentice said use of the boat would remove any concerns weed species could be introduced to the lake by Horizons staff doing monitoring work. 

"This removes any threat of cross-contamination," he said. 

Lake Horowhenua has been previously described in a report by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) as a lake where drinking the water, at certain times of the year, has the potential to kill a dog or small child. 

The response to that report was the formation of the Lake Horowhenua Accord, an agreement signed by five members to clean up the lake. 

The launch of the boat yesterday was the first item from the accord's action plan that could be ticked off as completed. 

Other ticks are expected to follow. Construction of a wash-down facility for boats at the entrance to the public domain at the lake is almost complete. 

Meanwhile, a fish pass is planned for the lake's outlet, the Hokio Stream, and will be installed closer to Christmas.

"There's a lot of work going on," Dentice said. 

Before its launch, the monitoring boat was blessed by Lake Horowhenua trustee and Lake Domain Board member Marokopa Wiremu-Matakatea. 

He said the boat's name referred to the lake's history as a food source and spoke of the Muaupoko people's desire to return the lake to its former glory. Wiremu-Matakatea said the boat's name translated as place of the eels, tuna is Maori for eels and Lake Horowhenua was once a place from where eels were sourced by other tribes. 

The first monitoring trip on the lake was taken by Horizons staffer David Brown and Lake Domain Board member Robert Warrington. 

Dentice said this was part of the approach the accord was taking of using scientific data and traditional knowledge of the lake and its surrounds. 

For example, Wiremu-Matakatea said he and others were once able to identify where around the lake mussels had been taken from, judging by the shape of their shells. 

Horizons councillors Colleen Sheldon and Pat Kelly were among the small group on hand to watch the boat's launch yesterday. 

"I really do see this as a marriage of scientific knowledge and cultural knowledge," Sheldon said.

 

Waterproofing trial on Avonside home

10 July 2014 - The Press 

A trial to see whether house-tanking could keep flood waters at bay is underway in Christchurch today. 

Tanking involves applying a waterproof membrane to the exterior of the house and is one of a range of defence measures the mayoral taskforce on flooding has come up with to reduce the risk to homes in low-lying areas of the city. 

The technology though is largely untested in New Zealand so the city council has got permission to do a pilot test on a red-zoned house in Avonside. 

Today contractors have begun applying the waterproof membrane to the exterior foundation of the house. 

Tomorrow a bund constructed around the property will be filled with water to simulate flooding conditions so the council can see how the membrane performs. 

Results of the testing will be made available to the public on Monday.

 

Diamond Harbour reservoir set to run dry

10 July 2014 - The Press 

A key reservoir servicing Diamond Harbour is likely to run dry this evening after a likely burst pipe interrupted its normal supply. 

Christchurch City Council is urging Diamond Harbour residents to conserve water tonight and possibly through tomorrow morning. 

A significant fault within the network interrupted the normal supply and one of the key reservoirs is now at a very low level, council asset and network planning unit manager Terry Howes said. 

The reservoir is likely to run dry over the peak period this evening. 

"Our contractors are over in Diamond Harbour trying to locate and fix the problem and will work through the night if necessary to ensure supplies are restored as quickly as possible," Howes said. 

"In the meantime, we're urging residents to conserve water, as there is a possibility that the water supply could run out." 

"We are still trying to pinpoint the exact location of the problem but we are almost certain we are dealing with a large burst pipe." 

If needed, council will tanker in water to Diamond Harbour if the water supply cannot be fixed overnight, Howes said

 

Roads closed in Far North as wild weather continues

11 July 2014 – TV One News

More than 60 roads have been closed or reduced to one lane across the Far North following days of heavy rain and strong winds. Civil Defence Controller Alastair Wells says Far North District Council contractors have been working to remove fallen trees from roads and are putting up warning signs at as many flooded roads as possible. However, he says widespread flooding is making it difficult for contractors to reach all areas. "We're pleased we've been able to reduce the number of closed roads from more than 280 to about 60," he says. 

 

Woman missing in flooded river

12 July 2014 - NZ Newswire 

Northland emergency services are searching for a woman believed to have been swept from a tree into the flooded Waitangi River and are heading to help three people stuck up a tree. 

Coastguard Northern Region was asked about 6.45am on Saturday to start searching the Waitangi River mouth for a woman believed to have been swept away from a tree above the Haruru Falls, spokeswoman Georgie Smith told NZ Newswire. 

The Paihia Fire Service is using a jetski and emergency services are trying to get smaller vessels up the river to rescue the people in the tree, she said. 

Large amount of debris in the water, high tide and flood water are making it difficult for the Coastguard vessel to get up the river. 

A rescue helicopter is also on its way to help, Ms Smith said. 

Emergency services trying to reach the stranded people are working against a strong current in the flooded river. 

Heavy rain in Northland on Friday night is causing problems in a region that endured bad weather for most of the week.

There is significant flooding at Moerewa, Kawakawa and Kaeo and multiple road closures, including on parts of the State Highway network, Graeme MacDonald, spokesman for the Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management Group said on Saturday. 

 

Upper North Island soaked and power off

12 July 2014 - NZ Newswire 

Officials are assessing flood-affected communities in Northland and monitoring rising rivers while power companies work to restore power. 

There is significant flooding at Moerewa, Kawakawa and Kaeo and multiple road closures, including on parts of the State Highway network, Graeme MacDonald, spokesman for the Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management Group said on Saturday. 

A storm unfolded as predicted, dumping as much as 128mm of rain in the upper Waitangi catchment between 3pm on Friday and 6am on Saturday. 

"The weather has now finally moved away from Northland which is expected to get some respite today and tomorrow, although storm-filled rivers are expected to continue to remain in flood this weekend before water can finally drain away," he said. 

People are being asked to stay off roads unless absolutely necessary and officials are assessing the welfare needs of those in isolated communities, some of whom who have been without power for several days. 

Northpower estimates 570 customers are without power while Top Energy says about 1500 of its customers are without power. 

"The conditions overnight were atrocious," Top Energy spokesman Peter Heath told NZ Newswire. 

However, the Fire Service said it only received about 20 weather-related calls overnight in the northern region and it was assisting people to leave a flooded farm near Paihia on Saturday morning. 

"It was pretty quiet overnight," shift manager Paul Radden told NZ Newswire. 

Auckland power provider Vector said 284 of its customers in Oratia and 1749 in Henderson Valley lost power overnight. Power had been restored to all but 190 customers with the remaining likely to be fixed by mid-morning.

Vector warns there will be more power cuts as bad weather continues in Auckland. 

Winds will ease but flooding in parts of Auckland is possible on Saturday as the front moves slowly over the city, weatherwatch.co.nz says.

"Heaviest falls look to be over

 

Final surge of weather heads south

12 July 2014 - New Zealand Herald 

Northland residents have been evacuated from their homes due to flooding while more than 2000 homes across the upper North Island remain without power. Several Northland residents have been caught in vehicles by flood water and rescued by emergency services, police said. Other residents were in the process of being rescued from flooded dwellings. 

A heavy rain band arrived exactly as predicted for Auckland - around dawn. Heaviest falls were over the Gulf, including Waiheke Island - and the eastern coastline of the city including the CBD. There were sub-tropical elements to the rain band, which could lead to torrential downpours and localised surface and flash flooding. Winds gusts reached up to 80km/h in exposed parts of the city. 

Northland Civil Defence spokesman Graeme MacDonald said multiple agencies were mobilising to assess welfare needs and infrastructure damage as wild weather delivered its final anticipated blow overnight, causing widespread flooding in Northland. The weather dumped up to 128mm in the upper Waitangi catchment between 3pm yesterday and 6am today. Rainfall intensities of up to 36mm an hour were recorded in the upper hills at Towai. 

Significant flooding had affected Moerewa, Kawakawa and Kaeo, resulting in multiple flooding-related road closures, including parts of the State Highway network. Far North lines company Top Energy spokesman Peter Heath said 1500 houses were still without power. The heavy rain has washed away a 10 metre-long section of State Highway 1 just south of Kawakawa in Northland, closing the road. Care was also need on SH1 through the Dome Valley between Warkworth and Wellsford north of Auckland because of storm damage to the highway.

 

Affected roads: 

* SH1, Kawakawa to Ohaewai: highway closed by floods; no suitable detour available

* SH1, north of Moerewa: flooding; caution needed

* SH10, Puketotara Road to Waipapa Road: flooding; highway narrowed to 1 lane

* SH10, near Kaeo: highway closed by floods; no suitable detour available

* SH11, Kawakawa to Paihia: highway closed by floods at Lemons Hill

* SH12, near Kaikohe: highway closed by floods at Taheke; no suitable detour available

* SH12, north of Dargaville: highway closed by floods at Rotu Culvert; no suitable detour available

 

Paihia's water supply recovers

13 July 2014 - Stuff 

The unexpectedly low water supply of Paihia is recovering, after a situation Northland officials described as "ironic" given the amount of rain that has fallen in the area. 

The flooded Waitangi River had too much silt for Paihia's water treatment plant to handle and the area's water supply got down to just 15% of capacity by mid-afternoon. 

Urgent calls were made for residents to restrict their use of water, but this initially led to people stock-piling water, Far North District Council said.  

Council spokesman Rick McCall said a second call went out and the demand eased. 

The reservoir levels had risen to about 27 per cent full, and though the plant was operating at reduced capacity, the reservoir was expected to recover fully overnight. 

McCall said it was ironic that a water shortage was a problem given the amount of rain that had fallen on them in the past few days. 

Areas of the Far North broke their entire-month rain records in less than 13 days. 

Metservice forecaster Frances Russell said Kaikohe, for example, had experienced 509ml of rain in the first 13 days of July, most of it falling during the recent storm. 

Kaikohe's previous July record was 411ml, and that was for the entire month. 

Though only scattered showers are forecast for Monday, there is still a lot of surface water in the areas around Moerewa and Kawakawa. 

McCall said there were still families unable to return to their homes. 

Portable toilets had been delivered to the area as floodwaters had damaged many septic tank systems, he said. 

"We've been making steady progress but it's going to be quite a long time before everything's back to normal," he said. 

McCall said a washout had closed SH1, near Maromaku Rd south of Kawakawa. 

Bypasses were in place, though only one has been able to take the heavy traffic required to re-supply retailers whose stocks were dwindling. 

It would be an estimated three to five days before the highway was repaired for traffic, he said. 

SH14 from Whangarei to Dargaville had also experienced "significant flooding" and was reduced to one lane. Motorists were advised to avoid the area. 

Top Energy spokesman John Wansbone said of the 650 households without power on Saturday night, 420 had been restored. 

There were still scattered patches without power in Opua, parts of the Hokianga, Rangiputa, Teria and Te Kao. 

It was estimated all but 100 homes would be restored to power by Monday night, he said. 

Minister for Civil Defence Nikki Kaye announced she would visit the flood-affected areas to assess whether central government assistance was needed, possibly by way of mayoral relief funds. 

Kaye said she was "reassured" that the ministry and the Northland civil defence emergency management group were working together.  

"The response continues to be well managed by Northland. Welfare centres have been set up to meet the needs of families, and the Rural Support Trust has been actively engaged in working with farmers to begin cleaning up affected areas. I am particularly impressed at how well community plans have been activated." 

Kaye said the regions around Moerewa and Hikurangi would "likely be affected for several days". 

"Eleven houses have been evacuated in Moerewa and a civil defence welfare centre had been up and running, which has now been stood down. Farmers and a number of horticulturists in the Hikurangi region and across Northland have sustained significant damage to pastures and farms, and we will look closely at what assistance can be provided." 

Residents of the area said clean-up was now the main task. 

Moerewa volunteer Laurie Anderson said everyone had left the temporary community relief centre as the flood waters had receded. 

He said there was a lot of debris but the community was helping clean it up. 

A man at the Falls Hotel near Haruru Falls, who declined to be named, said the Waitangi River was still swollen but was within its banks. 

The task now was "drying out and cleaning up", he said. 

 

Wettest July on record for Northland town

14 July 2014 – TV One News 

Last week's downpour means it is already the wettest July on record for the Northland town of Moerewa.

Moerewa's already received a record 510mm of rainfall just two weeks into the month, surpassing the previous record of 41mm for the entire month. 

Most of the north has had a battering and forecasts say Tuesday looks set to bring even more rain to the sodden region. 

The severe weather has left many without power in Northland nearly six days after the region was hit by heavy rain and flooding. 

Power company Top Energy says it'll be aiming for total restoration by the end of today. 

The region's other provider, Northpower, says most of its customers have now been re-connected.

 

Homes, farms hard-hit in storm

14 July 2014 – Radio New Zealand News 

Houses in the Northland town of Moerewa have been badly damaged by floodwaters and other communities and farmers in the region have been hard hit, the Civil Defence Minister says. More wild weather over the weekend after days of rain caused floods, power cuts and road closures, and threatened water supplies in the town of Paihia. The minister, Nikki Kaye, who is just back from an inspection of the storm-hit region, said she had been wading through water in some houses. She said farmers, particularly in the Hikurangi swamp, were talking of tens of millions of dollars worth of damage. 

Ms Kaye said the local Civil Defence effort had been very good and she would assess what extra help the Government could offer. That could include contributing towards mayoral relief funds for farmers, who have suffered millions of dollars' worth of damage. The minister would also speak with the Minister for Primary Industries about what assistance it could give. 

Residents in Paihia were being urged to conserve water after silt affected the water treatment plant and reservoir levels dropped. The Northland town was just a few hours away from running out of water on Sunday, when the treatment plant became clogged with silt from the flooded Waitangi River and the reservoir level fell to just 15 percent. Far North Civil Defence Controller Alistair Wells said the level rose to about 50 percent overnight on Sunday, but the plant was running slow to cope with silt, and the council needed people to reduce their water demand to match supply. Flood waters were receding on Monday morning but Civil Defence said it would take some time for them to go completely. 

Much of Moerewa and Kawakawa remained underwater and State Highway 1 south of Kawakawa was closed. The council advised motorists heading north from Whangarei to use Mangakahia Road to Kaikohe. Mr Wells said building inspections were under way in the region and would take a few days to complete. He said some people were still displaced by the flooding and are being looked after. 

 

Greens' swimmable river plan criticised

14 July 2014 – NZ Newswire 

Farmers and irrigators are criticising the Green Party's plan to make all rivers swimmable as costly and unfair. 

The Greens want to make all rivers in New Zealand clean enough to swim in and establish a protected rivers network to permanently safeguard waterways. 

They want to see waterways protected in the same way national parks and reserves protect the best landscapes and habitats after Ministry for the Environment figures last year showed 61 per cent of monitored rivers were unsafe for swimming. 

But Federated Farmers' environment spokesman Ian Mackenzie says making all rivers swimmable, without some sort of exceptions regime, will likely come at a massive cost to urban ratepayers. 

"It cannot be implemented fairly without a huge cost to society and will likely only end up being implemented in rural areas instead of all waterways," he said. 

"In other words, it will let off the hook some of our most polluted waterways, like Wellington's Waiwhetu Stream and Christchurch's Avon, yet insist on higher standards for our rural streams and rivers." 

Irrigation New Zealand chief executive Andrew Curtis says it would be unrealistic and prohibitively expensive to have swimmable rivers everywhere. 

While there is some merit to the Green Party policy, Mr Curtis said New Zealand needs more large-scale water storage. 

Environment Minister Amy Adams has dismissed the Greens' plan as costly and impractical, while Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce described the policy as "cartoon-like". 

Earlier this month, the government announced the first ever set of national standards for freshwater, which regional councils across the country will be required to implement by 2026. 

At a minimum, water must present no more than a moderate risk of infection to people when they are wading or boating.

It's not a minimum requirement that councils make lakes and rivers safe enough for swimming.

 

Irrigation NZ says Greens Party's water policy unrealistic

14 July 2014 – Yahoo News 

Irrigation New Zealand (INZ) thinks that there is some merit in the Green Party’s environmental policy relating to water announced today, but is concerned about the economic and social impacts of the policy and about how the Green Party will achieve its outcomes. 

INZ agrees that dams must not be built on New Zealand’s pristine rivers and where possible new dams should be located off-river. It also agrees that ‘no go’ areas should be identified. 

But INZ does not agree that dams and irrigation destroy rivers or add to pollution if they are designed and constructed properly. 

"The reality is that New Zealand needs large scale water storage. This is essential for town and city drinking water supplies, as well as to produce fresh food," says Andrew Curtis, chief executive of INZ. 

"Without water storage we would have to explore other expensive options to cope with future population growth. These might include implementing intense food price hikes; importing foreign fresh produce and building desalination plants. 

"Irrigation schemes are also key to fixing up problems of the past by storing high winter flows and using these for irrigation during the summer which prevents rivers being impacted by irrigation takes," says Mr Curtis. 

INZ agrees with the Green’s proposed collaborative approach to setting water policy, but INZ says that New Zealand must realise the complexity of its water issues. 

"The government’s NPS is actually one of the toughest pieces of environmental legislation anywhere in the developed world and people need to understand the legislation in detail," says Mr Curtis. 

"The NPS policy states that river water quality in New Zealand cannot get worse and it provides a minimum level for rivers in a poor state to reach. 

"The reality is that it is unrealistic and prohibitively expensive to have swimmable rivers everywhere - particularly in towns and cities where water quality is by far the worst." 

INZ looks forward to further discussing water policy with the Green Party to see if we can work toward a way for both preserving New Zealand’s water quality while still continuing to grow our economy. 

INZ is committed to finding a way for New Zealand to develop sustainably managed irrigation schemes within acceptable environmental limits. 

"Water is our most valuable renewable resource and we believe that irrigation in New Zealand is essential to protect against climatic variations and to enhance the country’s ability to feed its population and to contribute to feeding the world," says Mr Curtis.

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