27 Nov 2023

Hawkes Bay and Tai Rāwhiti back in cleanup mode

From Checkpoint, 5:29 pm on 27 November 2023
Hawke's Bay beach with slash

Photo: Emma Ricketts

Northern Hawke's Bay and Tai Rāwhiti are back in cleanup mode after heavy rain fell steadily over the weekend.

The region's infrastructure is bruised and battered from previous storms, and each downpour adds to the price tag for recovery.

Wairoa farmers say the damage to farm tracks and fences is worse in places than in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle.

Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz said while they were still cleaning up from February's storm, the weekend downpours had just added to the workload.

"Yesterday, teams were cleaning the woody debris around the bridges, roading teams were out and about, our scientists are out talking to residents who have seen movement at their properties."

Stoltz said it was mostly the same areas affected, with slips in neighbourhoods around town and some up the coast. The rain was heaviest inland.

MetService meteorologist Lewis Ferris said the weather station at Pukeorapa, northeast of Wairoa, measured 271.5mm of rain between Friday and Sunday.

Gisborne Aerodrome measured 94mm and up the coast, Tolaga Bay received 131mm.

Ferris said there had been over a week of persistent rain in Hawke's Bay and Tai Rāwhiti, combined with rain over the weekend falling on already sodden ground meant that more impacts would be seen, and more quickly.

The forecast for this week would be drier, but not completely dry, he said.

Further south, Napier is only 20mm off its record yearly rainfall.

According to the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, slash cleanup was expected to take until May 2024.

The Silt Recovery Taskforce had already burnt, chipped or shredded nearly 150,000 tonnes from the region's rivers, beaches and bridges - 17,000 tonnes of that was in Wairoa. 

The town was the scene of a fatal accident on Sunday morning, when a car collided with a slip blocking the road south, leaving one person dead and another injured. The road reopened to one lane at midday on Monday.

Waka Kotahi acting regional manager for maintenance and operations Mark Owen said it would be a couple of days before both lanes were open.

"We've had geotechnical people assessing the slip, and it's going to take another couple of days before it stabilises and they can remove all the material, and we can safely reopen it to two lanes."

Mayor Craig Little said 20 local roads were closed and people living in rural areas had told him they had been hit harder now than during the cyclone in terms of slips and fencing repairs.

"We need a bit of fun or excitement or a bit of hope, and ...today's a beautiful day - you'd never believe that yesterday and the day before we had torrential rain and it's just depressing those people that are really up against it. Every time it rains, they just think, 'Oh my god, what's going to happen now?' "

Federated Farmers Wairoa branch leader Allan Newton said there would be massive slips in the back country.

"Only about 10 days ago, we had 165mm over about a week or so period, so the ground was still very, very wet. So there's a lot of slips around, a lot of land movement - just in the 5km down our road, I could count about a dozen slips, easily."

He said farmers had no choice but to get on with repairing fences and access roads yet again.

"For people who have spent a lot of money on contractors, it's very financially devastating to them."

With lamb and beef prices down, and the cost of finance more than double, he said paying for yet another round of repairs would be a harsh reality for some.