Floods threaten berry crop

IN THE DEEP END: Julians Berry Farm’s Monica Julian is hoping the water covering their newly planted berry plants will drain in the next day or two.

MONDAY night’s heavy rain swamped much of Julian’s Berry Farm and Café, endangering the whole strawberry crop if the floodwater doesn’t recede by early Thursday.

Early yesterday afternoon, co-owner Monica Julian said the water was still rising despite a break in the rainfall.

“It’s not good, we’re supposed to be planting strawberries at the moment but obviously can’t. This is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” she said.

Planting began at the 10ha farm last week.

She said there was a relatively short window of opportunity for the water to drain before this year’s crop could be ruined.

“We probably have about 48 hours,” she said yesterday, “and it takes a long time for that drain to empty.”

“It’s stopping work from happening now and we could potentially lose all our strawberry plants.”

Mrs Julian said this was the worst flooding they had experienced since they bought the property 18 years ago.

“In the floods [April, 2017] it was just a little lower.”

Two hectares of recently-planted strawberries and another 2ha of boysenberry and blackberry canes were under water yesterday

The farm was among many properties experiencing extensive surface flooding after an entire month’s worth of rain fell overnight in Whakatane on Monday. New owners of the Whakatane Boarding Kennels were also mopping up yesterday after their property flooded.

MetService said Whakatane Airport recorded 117mm of rain overnight, while the heaviest rainfall of 44mm fell in one hour between 3am and 4am yesterday morning.

“With 6mm being heavy, and looking back at the average for May being 117mm, you get a good clear idea of how much rain that is, not just the amount that fell but also the intensity in that one hour,” said meteorologist John Law.

Mr Law warned the forecast was unsettled with a good chance of more showers, some heavy, in the next day or so.

At boarding kennels on Paroa Road, Sarah-Lee Sisson said she left her house at 7am to discover the property under water. The water from her paddocks had flooded the kennels and six larger dogs that were boarding had to be moved. Four were being housed at the SPCA temporarily, while the other two remained at her property, along with eight smaller dogs.

“There was so much rain in such a short period.”

Mrs Sisson praised the Whakatane Volunteer Fire Brigade.

“They were out here within minutes; they were amazing. Nine guys were here, they put another pump in and pumped it all across the road.”

By yesterday afternoon most of the water had been pumped out and Mrs Sisson said she expected the kennels to re-open today after they were shut during the clean-up.

Whakatane District Council said the heavy rainfall caused significant and widespread surface flooding, which impacted on a number of council roads.

“Apanui Avenue was closed until late morning, but is now open, as are all other district roads,” said council public affairs manager Ross Boreham.

A slip on Hillcrest Road was also cleared.

“Stormwater systems were operating at maximum capacity at the height of the deluge, and generally coped well.”