After the floods + video

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AFTERMATH: College Road in Edgecumbe on Friday morning, a day after the flood

7.30pm - Community meetings

Hundreds of flood-affected residents have attended community meetings in Kawerau and Whakatane.

The 4pm meeting at Rautahi Marae and 6pm meeting at the Whakatane War Memorial Hall provided the opportunity for all those involved in the flood effort to update residents and answer questions.

Edgecumbe residents were told that approximately 70 percent of properties had been impacted by the floodwaters.

"Some people will never be able to go back and live in their homes," Whakatane District Council chief executive Marty Grenfell told the Whakatane meeting. At some properties floodwaters had reached the eaves, others in College Road near the stopbank break had dislodged from their foundations and moved. Mayor Tony Bonne said it would take Bay of Plenty Regional Council five to seven days to get rid of all the water.

As the water retreated, the council would move in and assess properties.

Tomorrow, people whose properties are not flooded will be able to visit their homes, escorted, to pick up essential belongings. Mr Grenfell said this only applied to people whose properties were not impacted, and that the council believed were safe to enter.

The town itself was not safe and would not be safe for some time.

Approximately 50 animals have been rescued, a quarter of which have been reunited with their owners.

Animal welfare officers continue to focus on rescuing live animals, but residents were warned that some pets were likely to be dead.
Other key points covered were:
- Edgecumbe is not liveable as power, sewage and drinking water was not available.
- A time for residents to seek information on their homes will be made tomorrow morning. The Whakatane District Council will confirm a time.
- If accessible, residents can register to be escorted to their homes tomorrow, at the Awakeri Hall, to get belongings.
- Mayor Tony Bonne made a commitment to launch an investigation in to the situation.
- Rates relief will be explored at a later date.
- It is unsure when the community can return home.

- GP visits and prescriptions will be free for flood-affected residents.
- Project Edgecumbe had been set up at the Awakeri Hall. Staff will be on hand from 9am to 5pm each day. You can also call 0800 EDGECUMBE.

11am - Two community meetings today

TWO community meetings will be held today for residents evacuated from their homes. The first will be at Rautahi Marae in Kawerau at 4pm and the second one at the Whakatane War Memorial Hall at 6pm.

“We want to get as many people at those meetings so we can answer their questions,” Mayor Tony Bonne said.

MEETING: Rautahi Marae evacuation centre

Mr Bonne said the breach repair was in place and working well so water was not continuing to flow into Edgecumbe anymore.

Water levels were continuing to drop but it was expected to take seven to 10 days to drain with a number of pumps being brought in from around the country.

Environment Bay of Plenty flood manager Roger Waugh said water had stopped flowing out of the river and was going into the canals through gravity.

"We are working out where we can potentially put pumps in; access is a real issue." There were no pumps in place yet, he said.

Mr Bonne said in urgent cases people had been escorted into Edgecumbe - for medical supplies and passports.

 

Saturday 9am - Rangitaiki River breach closed

THE breach in the Rangitaiki River stopbank was closed overnight but it is likely to be 10 days before Edgecumbe residents are able to return to their homes.

Speaking at a press conference this morning, Environment Bay of Plenty flood manager Roger Waugh said they managed to close the breach at 11pm last night and this was holding all the water that had previously been coming out of the river through Edgecumbe.

The closure has brought with it lower water levels in the town. “We saw some initial gains in lowering water through Edgecumbe but there is still a significant amount of water in Edgecumbe,” Mr Waugh said.

He said work would continue today to sure up the temporary breach closure.

Mr Waugh said since the stopbank breached six million cubic metres of water had gone through the breach.

Yesterday the water spread to cover another 200 hectares to the west of Edgecumbe, forcing the evacuation of up to eight homes in the Gow Road area. Mr Waugh said an assessment would be done this morning of what was happening in the flood basins, but could properties could inundated today.

They would also be assessing flood pumping this morning to see where they could get temporary pumps in.  Mr Waugh said the council had a number of its own pumps and had called in pumped from the Waikato and Manawatu. The permanent pump stations were flooded and these would be assessed today.

Mr Waugh said the pumping out of water, through the canal systems, was a large operation and not complicated but required a lot of effort and resources -- people and machinery.

Meanwhile, Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne has warned that it could be 10 days before the 1600 people displaced by the flood could return to their homes.

The Edgecumbe township remains cordoned off to ensure public safety while flood waters are still being managed and pumped away and to protect people from sanitation risks associated with sewage system failures and surface water contamination.

Edgecumbe residents will not be allowed to return until the flood waters and contamination concerns are controlled and the medical officer of health has cleared the area as safe. An exclusion zone is in place and only response service personnel are allowed into the cordoned off area.

Mr Bonne said the council was dedicated to getting people back into their homes as soon as possible.

He said they had no idea at this stage, the extent of damage to homes, but they could be some people who would not be able to return to their homes. "We know there will be some houses condemned."

A drop-in centre had been established at Awakeri School, manned by council staff, where people could go to have their queries answered.

Whakatane Emergency Response Team with support from SPCA, the Ministry for Primary Industries and experts from Massey University are on the ground this morning going door-to-door to search for animals in Edgecumbe.

They will be visiting every house, but will specially be targeting those that have contacted them to say they have animals still at their properties. Residents in need of animal welfare support should also call 0800 306 0500 or 07 306 0500.

Animals will be taken to local SPCA centres, or housed at vet clinics, and reunited with their owners as soon as possible.

There are still people isolated in the communities of Minginui, Ruatahuna, Te Whaiti and Ruatoki. Civil Defence staff have established key contacts in those areas. Emergency supplies are being delivered by air and ground crews are working to restore road access as quickly as possible.

More rural landowners in the Rangitaiki drainage area may be affected as floodwaters move down through the catchment. Flood Management teams are monitoring the situation and further evacuations will be notified as required.

Donations for Eastern Bay flood-affected communities

Although many people are wanting to donate small goods and food, Mr Bonne said the relief effort did not require any donated goods. People are encouraged to give financially instead thought the official Mayoral Fund Give a Little page. Money raised through the appeal will be used to fund applications made to the Mayoral Relief Fund to assist people affected by this week’s flooding events. People can donate at https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/ebopmayoralfund

Offers of assistance should be directed to the Give a Little fund or by calling Whakatane District Council on 0800 306 0500. Red Cross is also fundraising.

Friday 5pm - Matahina Dam still contained

MATAHINA Dam did not burst its banks today, according to council spokesman.

Speaking at a press conference, Environment Bay of Plenty flood duty manager Roger Waugh said rumours the Matahina Dam had breached today were untrue.

“Trustpower has confirmed the dam is safe and there are no issues. The floodwaters are migrating down to the low areas and other canals so there may be a risk of other evacuations. There will be other properties affected and obviously stock and dairy operations will be affected.”
Mr Waugh said the waters were migrating north-west towards the Awaiti canal and Matata Road.

“We don’t believe it will reach that far but there are large, low-lying areas.”

Mr Waugh said work on barricading the breach on College Road in Edgecumbe had begun and he expected it would be completed by this evening.

“The plan is to stop the water and secure the barricade for any future flood risk in the upcoming weeks and months.”

He said pumps from across the North Island would be arriving in the area and it was hoped they could start pumping water out of Edgecumbe and surrounding areas on Saturday morning.

“Pumping is expected to begin in the morning and run for the next two weeks.

Civil defence controller Paula Chapman said the council would allow people to return to their homes once the situation had been properly assessed.

“We will look to allow people back in to those areas in stages. At the moment their properties within those cordons that haven’t been impacted. The regional council is undertaking a process and as we see some movement in the timeline we can start putting plans in place.

“If we can get the pumps in tomorrow, that is going to be the best case scenario, we will be in a better state to say when people can return.”

She said the water was contaminated by sewage and the council would work with the ministry of health to ensure standards were maintained and people had the right information.”

Rangitaiki River was still swollen the day after.

Ms Chapman said the council was also working to evacuees in other isolated areas including Waimana, Taneatu, Ruatoki, Minginui and Te Whaiti.

Emergency supplies would be flown into those isolated.

Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne said due to risk of the contamination from flood waters a boiled notice was in an effect for the entire Ruatoki and Rangitaiki Plains area.

2pm - Pumps coming from all over the North Island

Bay of Plenty Regional Council is mustering pumps from all over the North Island to begin the massive task of pumping water away from Edgecumbe and other locations where floodwaters have settled.

Regional council eastern catchments manager Roger Waugh told a press conference today most of the water on the plains would need to be pumped off, or directed through the existing canal system.

He said it would take one to two weeks to clear the water.

11.30am - Road closure update

  • Taneatua Road is now open. Exercise caution on this road.
  • Whirinaki Bridge is now open.
  • Ohotu Road is open to light vehicles only at the bridge.
  • Poplar Lane is closed.
  • SH2 between Nukuhou - Mottram and Stevens Road is open.
  • SH2 is closed between SH34 to Putiki Road

Meanwhile, those living on the Rangitaiki Plains, including residents of Te Teko are advised to boil their water.

11am - Hydro Road evacuation

Residents of Hydro Road, Edgecumbe, in the vicinity of Fonterra are being evacuated this morning as a precaution.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council flood manager Peter Blackwood said the river had been at elevated levels for a substantial period of time and Trustpower had lowered overflows at the Matahina Dam to the absolute minimum possible.

"Mid afternoon should see the river levels down to reasonably safe levels in Edgecumbe, at which time the breach will be closed off. We have a four-hour window and have asked [Trustpower] to lower it more than would be a normal refilling of the dam stratagem.  We need that to do the breach because we have to close it off.

Mr Blackwood said floodwaters had spread to south Edgecumbe but levels had been stabilised.

The Omaheu Canal flood gates opened at around 10am and the canal began discharging floodwaters from the breach.

"From the breach, the immediate thing they tipped into was the Omaheu canal and that's crossed the railway back to the south side but that peak level has now been reached. We have staff monitoring that."

While Edgecumbe was closed to the public, members of the army and police were rescuing people's pets on Thursday.

10.50am - Gow Road evacuation

Whakatane District Council reports the evacuation of Gow Road is progressing well.

Public affairs manager Ross Borehams said the area was evacuated this morning due to water levels rising as a result of ponding moving through the catchment.

Evacuees should go to friends and family or to the welfare centre at Whakatane War Memorial Hall.

He said power had now been restored to pumps that were pumping excess water away and Awaiti canal had been opened to reduce pressure.

Matahina dam flows were being temporarily reduced to allow breach repair works later this afternoon.

Police are reminding people to respect the Edgecumbe evacuation cordon and road closures. Once residents leave their homes they are not able to return until they officially notified.

Mr Boreham said crews were working hard to reduce water levels in the area and make it safe for people to return.

"They will be re-assessing the situation at midday and providing further advice then."

Welfare and evacuation centres do not require any donated goods. Offers of food, clothing and other items can be made by calling the Whakatane District Council on 306 0500. They will take details and connect donations with people if required.

The Te Teko-Otakiri Road intersection is flooded and impassable.

Police have installed a new cordon on the corner of Powell and Te Teko Roads to prevent traffic from entering Edgecumbe from the south and are asking people to avoid travelling into Edgecumbe from any direction.

Prime Minister Bill English visits Edgecumbe and hears about the challenges faced by residents.

9am - Overnight updates

Prime Minister Bill English has arrived in Whakatane to inspect the damage caused by flooding around the region.

He is visiting Edgecumbe this morning before speaking to media at 10.15am.

We will update you further on the Government’s response to this natural disaster after this conference.

Meanwhile, Gow Road residents have been asked to evacuate to Whakatane immediately.

Rangitaiki River remains the main focus for Bay of Plenty Regional Council flood management teams today.

Most Eastern Bay rivers have returned to below warning levels and the Rangitaiki is receding, but floodwaters continue to come through the breach on College Road in Edgecumbe. Flood manager Peter Blackwood said this was forecast to continue until Saturday.

The regional council has put rock armouring and toe loading in several at-risk areas. These have now stabilised and there have been no stop bank failures under prolonged elevated flood levels from an overdesign flood.

“As waters lower, we’ll be able to better assess the breach and we may be able to fill the gap as a temporary measure on the weekend,” Mr Blackwood said.

This was an unprecedented event. “Ex-cyclone Debbie rainfall levels were very high – on the Rangitaiki, sites logged between 200-320mm in 48 hours,” Mr Blackwood said.

Stopbanks in the Eastern Bay are designed for a one-in-100 year event. At their peak, river flows were more than 30 percent larger than this.

FURIOUS FLOW: Trustpower spills water from the Matahina Dam yesterday. D5151-418

TrustPower started lowering the levels in Matahina Lake from Monday lunch time – well before the predicted rainfall. Bay of Plenty Regional Council activated its Whakatane flood room at midday on Wednesday and its experienced flood managers and their teams have worked round the clock since then to minimise flood damage and protect communities.

Mr Blackwood said the flood management plan for the Matahina Dam was designed to take 100 m3/s off the flood peak.

“We exceeded this by taking off 110 cumecs per second. If we hadn’t used the storage in Matahina dam, 12 percent more water would have flowed down the river at the peak of the flood,” he said.

“Tough decisions were made well and our data shows that those have paid off.”

River and stop bank inspections by Bay of Plenty Regional Council staff continue today. The Rangitaiki River flow has reduced to 420 cumecs per second, down from more than 700 cumecs yesterday.

Whakatane District Council reports temporary repairs to Thornton stopbank have held overnight and there are no additional concerns with this at present.

The area is being inspected this morning further information is expected by early afternoon.

Public affairs manager Ross Boreham said teams were working on the roading network and it was expected that a number of roads would be opening as the day went on.

State Highway 30 west to Rotorua is now open. Slips are being cleared through the Waimana Gorge. Further information regarding road access to Taneatua and Ruatoki is expected by mid-morning.

A security cordon was in place over night in Edgecumbe, following the evacuation of the town's 1600 residents, and police report that there were no significant issues.

Mr Boreham said Te Whaiti and Ruatahuna were still isolated and there was major damage to Ruatahuna Road, so access might not be restored for some time. "We are working to get food and medical supplies through to those areas as soon as possible.

"Teams will be out in the community today to start an initial needs assessment process. Residents are asked to help with that process and be patient – we all want this situation to be dealt with as quickly as possible, but the reality is that resources are limited.

"Damage to flooded homes will need to be assessed to determine whether homes are safe to inhabit. In many instances, it is likely that it could be up to 72 hours before that is possible, and where damage is significant, it could be longer. Everything that can be done to get people back into their homes will be done."

Other flood-related impacts

- Emergency Civil Defence Centres have been set up in Whakatane (War Memorial Hall) and Kawerau (Rautahi Marae – Onslow Street) to accommodate displaced residents. It may be up to 72 hours before people will be able to return to their homes to assess the damage.

- Taneatua’s water supply reservoir is low and residents have been asked to conserve water wherever possible until water treatment operations resume.

- A boil water notice is in force for Ruatoki residents.

Reopened roads:

  • Awahou Road
  • Grieve Road
  • SH34
  • SH30

Updated road closures:

  • Otakiri Road now closed from Omeheu Road to Te Teko Road (was entirely closed)

 

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