Wairarapa has been included in new funding aimed at improving river resilience and reducing future flood risk.
A total of $11.2 million is being committed nationwide from the Budget 2023 Flood and Cyclone recovery package.
Out of this, $3.5 million will be provided to Wairarapa, specifically to address blockages in the upper Ruamāhanga catchment caused by recent North Island weather events.
Funding will go towards projects like early warning systems and resilient communications to reduce the potential for future widespread damage when rivers leave their channels and travel across land.
Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty said he has seen first-hand the damage caused by severe weather.
“The communities and local councils worked incredibly hard to get back on their feet, but we need to help councils prepare for future risks with locally-led solutions.”
It is important to identify where to target additional warning systems, evacuation procedures, and flood protection infrastructure, said McAnulty.
“No one wants to see the same level of damage to their homes and businesses again,” McAnulty said.
“We want communities still recovering from the extreme weather to be able to move on with their lives, feeling safer.”
Greater Wellington Regional Council [GWRC] flood protection manager Graeme Campbell said the announcement is “fantastic”.
“It’s a win-win from a flood carrying capacity and from an ecological and environmental perspective,” Campbell said.
“We’re looking forward to getting stuck into it.”
Campbell noted that the key to future resilience lies in ensuring new residential buildings are not located in flood risk areas, something that’s part of the revised district plan currently being prepared.
Significant blockage areas in Wairarapa included the Tinui area [Tinui and Whareama Rivers] as well as the Upper Ruamāhanga rivers such as Kōpuaranga, Whangaehu, and Tauweru Rivers.
Campbell said at this stage, there is a focus on crack willow blockage removal.
“It is difficult to say at this time how much forestry slash blockage is also present but in the rivers mentioned it does not appear to be the major cause of blockages.”
Future work includes a 150-metre rock revetment [wall] starting where the Waipoua meets the Ruamāhanga and going downstream from there, the construction of which will commence this summer.
GWRC deputy chair and Wairarapa representative Adrienne Staples said, in addressing the Ruamāhanga’s upper catchment, other smaller rivers feeding into it should also be looked at.
“Some of the tributary rivers were badly affected by Gabrielle. There’s a lot of remediation work that needs doing there, so that funding is very good news.”
The tree matter blocking the river catchment had a mix of origins, Staples said.
“Some will be forestry slash because there are forestries in some places on these rivers.
“There are also a lot of other bush and natives and exotics that grow along the riverbanks. Due to the sheer volume of water that damages the banks, anything growing along the edges was fair game.”
Staples also acknowledged the other ramifications caused by cyclone damage.
“It’s not just environmental mess, it’s an economic mess as well for the property owners out there, with kilometres of fencing ripped out and infrastructure damaged.”