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Rainfall puts sodden roads at further risk of failure

Flooding on the outskirts of Martinborough this month. PHOTO/FILE

A South Wairarapa District Council senior staffer says it will take just one more major rain event to cause the failure of many roads in the district.

But even without heavy rain, there is a high probability of more slips in coming weeks, he said.

Earlier this month, several South Wairarapa communities were cut off for a few days after a heavy rain event.

More than 200mm of rain fell in under 30 hours at the time, resulting in the worst flooding in 18 years, residents said.

In an update to the council’s Assets and Services Committee, partnerships and operations manager Stefan Corbett said crews had successfully cleared several primary rural roads that had been completely blocked, allowing at least passenger cars a way in and out.

He said Fulton Hogan crews had assessed the network and were programming emergency repairs.

“There was significant and widespread damage to roads, bridges, culverts, and footpaths,” Corbett said.

“We expect the earth to keep moving over the next couple of weeks, and there is a high likelihood that we will have more slips, even if it doesn’t rain heavily again.

“One more major rain event, and we will see many roads fail in places again.

“The reality is that due to a combination of covid disruptions, rising costs, climate change impact, and unusually heavy winter weather, we are barely getting to planned programmed work.”

The stress on roading crews to keep up with demand was also highlighted in a statement from the council this month seeking “understanding” from residents and ratepayers.

The council said the “very high” amount of rain this winter was stressing the network and, saturating the ground, leading to flooding and slips.

“We are concentrating our resources on high-priority responses, including the Hinekura Rd rebuild, Admiral Hill route maintenance Boar Bush Gully Rd slip, the 5 Rivers Medical footpaths, Cape Palliser Rd repairs, and various slips, trees, surface flooding, cracking problems that demand immediate attention.

“This leaves little time available for planned and routine work. We appreciate it is frustrating for the public not to see routine work being progressed.

“We hope to get back to a more normal work programme once we get through August.

“We seek your understanding in the meantime.”

A heavy rain watch was in place for the Tararua Range on Sunday, with up to 100mm forecast to fall between 9am and 7pm. – NZLDR

  • Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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