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Worst flooding in 18 years

Two men push a car out of floodwaters on Te Ore Ore-Bideford Rd. PHOTO/MARY ARGUE

Floodwaters wreak havoc
The Tauweru River near Bideford completely burst its banks.

It’s the worst flooding in almost 20 years.

More than 200 millimetres of rain fell in South Wairarapa in 30 hours, causing rivers to break banks, ripping up roads, and isolating entire communities.

Farmer Mike Firth, who has land near Tora and Te Awaiti, said about 50 residents were cut off from Martinborough for the second day in a row on Tuesday.

Floodwaters had risen quickly leaving sections of White Rock and Tora roads underwater.

He said the area had been inundated with 227mm of rain since 4am on Monday, and residents were calling it the worst flooding since 2004.

“The rain peaked at 24mls in an hour. I’ve been here eight, nine years, and I haven’t seen that before.”

A slip on a road near Tora.

Firth said the rain’s intensity had caught many off-guard with weekenders trapped at the coast, and farmers unable to move stock to safety.

“The forecast indicated 25-30mm overnight [Sunday], but we had 140mm.

“I couldn’t get to my stock as it was all flooded. I went out as far as I could, but there are lots of slips blocking the tracks.

“We’re not in the peak of lambing which is lucky, but we’ve had some losses.”

He said other farmers in the area were in the same situation.

Firth said residents were used to five or six floods a year blocking access to Martinborough but said he had never seen waters “this deep for this long”.

Flooded farms near Tora.

He said the White Rock and Lagoon Hill roads juncture near Tuturumuri had suffered significant damage.

“The tarmac is all ripped up. Everywhere the river has come over the road there’s silt.”

He said the Awhea River had dropped about 2 metres by midday on Tuesday, but suspected it had another metre and a half to go before four-wheel drives could access the road.

Firth said a motorist had tried unsuccessfully to escape on Monday and was forced to abandon their vehicle. The SUV was almost completely submerged overnight, and was towed from the floodwaters by a tractor on Tuesday.

“We might be able to get out on Wednesday [yesterday], but the water table is chocca at the moment,” Firth said.

A vehicle was completely submerged in floodwaters near Tuturumuri.

Martinborough Community Board deputy chair Aidan Ellims said about 70 residents in Hinakura were once again isolated, with access on alternative routes out of the valley blocked.

He said residents had used Admiral and Moeraki roads since a massive slip on Hinakura Rd in June.

“That has been completely cut off because the road is flooded.

“Once the Pahaoa River came up, that was it.”

He said council staff were “flat-tack rushing around the countryside” making repairs, and anticipated a substantial clean-up in coming days.

“They’ll need to check the stability all the way through to Hinakura [on Admiral Rd].

“I imagine there will be significant damage and potholes where the river has cut across tarseal and gravel roads.”

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] was monitoring the roads in and out of Martinborough closely on Tuesday, briefly shutting the Ponatahi Bridge for two hours at 10.30am.

The rising Ruamahanaga River closed Waihenga Bridge on Tuesday morning.

Waihenga Bridge closed a short time later, but not before Kuranui College students were sent home.

The bridge remained closed Tuesday evening.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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