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Campsite flood risk talks resurface at council

Map of the campsite at Tora, showing potential flood zone. PHOTO/FILE

Flood risk talks resurfaced in the public forum of a South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] meeting last week.

SWDC chief executive Harry Wilson ordered the campsites at North Tora and Te Awaiti closed for overnight camping in September due to a one-in-100-year flood risk.

After community opposition and talks with the Martinborough Community Board, the council then reopened the sites in October, just in time for Labour Weekend, while it found a “workable solution”.

South Wairarapa resident Trinity Shaw, who spoke at the council’s public forum on Wednesday, has camped at the sites for more than 40 years.

“I was shocked and dismayed the campsites were able to be closed so rapidly without risk analysis being carried out to measure the real level of risk as well as research into mitigation options that could minimise or eliminate risk,” she said.

“I am very relieved that after persistent lobbying and pressure from the locals who value these amazing campsites and the community board supporting and representing their interests, that the campsites have reopened – and this research will hopefully take place.”

Shaw said it was important the council understood the campsites provided many lower socioeconomic families with “the only means for an affordable during the summer period”.

“It gives them the opportunity to get away, connect, engage and be active, and learn new experiences.”

She said data from Greater Wellington Regional Council projected the river near the Te Awaiti campsite was subject to a one-in-100-year flood that would affect the bottom third of the campsite.

This would require 200mm of rain within a 24-hour period, Shaw said.

“Over the last 98 years since rainfall recording began at the river, the highest rainfall ever received was 155mm in a 24 hour period,” she said.

This happened in 2004.

She said the data meant there was a one per cent chance of this magnitude of flooding in a 100-year period.

“It equates for 36,499 days in that 100-year period where the campsite is absolutely safe to camp and one day that it will flood, causing a third of the lower level of the campsite to have low level flooding.”

“I’m not saying it won’t happen, and I accept the risk exists, however when you look at those statistics, the probability is extremely low and with the meteorological technology that we have today, these types of weather events are forecasted well in advance.”

She said there were simple, low-cost options available to the council “in order to mitigate or eliminate the risk”.

“Closing them is simply inexcusable.”

South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen asked how this information correlated with two flooding events in the past 10 years at the sites.

Shaw said one instance Beijen referred to was when 155mm of rain fell in 2004, which did not meet the threshold for the one-in-100-year flood.

“I’m just worried that doesn’t correlate with photos I’ve seen over the last 10 years that show the whole campsite flooded under water,” Beijen said.

After the public forum had ended, Wilson said a full report was going to the Martinborough Community Board which meets on November 25, addressing the same concerns Shaw had raised.

“It discusses specifically the risk factors that go below a one-in-100 year event,” Wilson said.

“We’re also working with the Martinborough Community Board on risk mitigation options.” – NZLDR

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