22 Apr 2013

Plastic beads escape Rena in severe weather

7:30 pm on 22 April 2013

Severe weather in the Bay of Plenty has caused the release of a large amount of plastic beads from a container on the sunken stern of the Rena.

Rena Recovery, which is run by the Ministry for the Environment and Bay of Plenty Regional Council, said the beads had been sighted between Mount Maunganui and Papamoa beaches.

A Rena Recovery spokesperson, Hugo Shanahan, said the severity of the weekend's weather, including swells of up to 4 metres on Astrolabe Reef, dislodged tarpaulins and sandbags placed over the damaged container before the weather hit.

Mr Shanahan said the 2.5 millimetre plastic beads didn't pose a risk to public health or wildlife, but were a nuisance and difficult to remove from beaches.

Clean-up begins

Clean-up and repair work has begun in the region after heavy rain flooded homes and damaged roads and power-lines.

Emergency services were called to almost 100 homes on Sunday night as rain fell until 4am on Monday.

Four houses were evacuated after several slips and surface flooding in Tauranga.

Western Bay of Plenty Council said temporary repair work was underway on several roads hit by slips.

Metservice said further bursts of heavy rain and thunderstorms were possible in the Bay of Plenty on Monday, with another 30-50 millimetres of rain likely in places on top of what has already fallen.

More homes were flooded in Mount Maunganui in the western Bay of Plenty on Sunday night, 24 hours after floods and slips caused damage around the Tauranga area.

In Waihi Beach the chief fire officer Ian Smith who also operates the local Top 10 Holiday Park, said the community had pulled together to support each other.

"A lot of private homes were damaged in the area. It was very localised the rain. So there were parts of the beach that were not hit as bad as others so this end of the beach, the north end of the beach there was certainly a lot of homes, lot of cars that were flooded, various people trapped in cars."

Ian Smith said the skies were clear and people were getting on with the business of clearing up.

A fire truck pumps water from a Waihi Beach property.

A fire truck pumps water from a Waihi Beach property. Photo: RNZ

More than 60 people were evacuated from houses and two holiday parks in the Waihi Beach township on Saturday due to rising river levels and extensive flooding.

Fire crews used ropes to get holidaymakers across a flooded stream to safety.

A motorist who tried to drive out of Waihi Beach on Saturday had to be rescued by a firefighter when her car got stuck in a slip.

Sally Downing said the rain got heavier and heavier as she travelled along Waihi Beach Road. "Then I went to a corner and next minute all hell broke loose really. The whole side seemed to slide down and hit me in the side."

A deluge of water washed through the car, cutting its power and Ms Downing says she was left trapped in the darkness unable to open the window. She was pulled out by a firefighter who broke the car window to rescue her.

Christine Tyler from Rotorua and her family left the Top 10 Holiday Resort in their car. "It was quite scary because there was about a foot of water, of torrent, running across the bridge as I was driving across it."

Road access was cut when the Waihi Stream Bridge was inundated.

Waihi Beach chief fire officer Ian Smith said it was the worst flooding for decades, and the community pulled together with some residents opening up their homes to 16 people.

Waihi Beach Road remained closed on Sunday but parts of State Highway 2 between Waihi and Waihi Beach were reopened.

Mr Smith said debris remains on the road and a lot of work remains to be done before it can be reopened.

Top 10 Holiday Resort co-owner Ian Smith said the campground will have to cancel school holiday bookings or try to find people alternative accommodation. "You can't put people into units that are just totally trashed," he said.

The surf club at Waihi Beach was also affected and committee member Andrew Kennedy said the fire brigade will have to hose out the building.

Homes, shops damaged

In Tauranga, heavy rain on Saturday caused flooding to at least 50 homes mostly in Otumoetai and Matua, and some residents were forced to leave their properties.

Power was restored to about 100 Otumoetai residents on Sunday after contractors tried to stabilise a slip and repaired a damaged transformer.

Tauranga received 100mm of rain in the 24 hours to 10am on Sunday. Council workers were clearing debris and checking stormwater systems.

Flash flooding in Mount Maunganui damaged shops, many of which remained closed on Sunday. Roofs have been damaged, carpets ruined, and some retailers have lost stock.

Heavy rain over the past day has meant there is flooding throughout the western Bay of Plenty, on Sunday evening prompting police to ask all motorists to stay at home where possible, or drive with extreme caution.

Downpours were widespread over the country, with other heavy falls in Whitianga, which received 94mm, and Farewell Spit where 99.6mm of rain fell in the 24 hours to Sunday morning.