8 Apr 2017

Edgecumbe residents 'should prepare' for 10 more days away

12:03 pm on 8 April 2017

The breach in the stopbank that left the Bay of Plenty town Edgecumbe inundated with water from the swollen Rangitāiki River has now been closed.

Edgecumbe remains cordoned off and empty after the Rangitāiki River breached stopbanks on Thursday, and about 1600 people who evacuated the city.

While water levels had stabilised, Whakatāne District Council warned yesterday further evacuations were still possible with floodwaters continuing to flow through swollen rivers and canals in the region.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council flood manager Roger Waugh said they were able to close the breach about 11pm.

He said that had stopped water pouring through the town and the water levels have dropped in some places, but it was a temporary fix and they would be working to strengthen the stopbank further.

"We saw some initial gains in lowering the water levels in Edgecumbe but there is still a significant amount of water in Edgecumbe.

"We continue today to shore up that temporary breach closure, we've got an operation to lift the bank up and put some more secure work in place."

Mr Waugh said authorities were beginning to assess when they would be able to begin pumping the water out, but it was hoped that would start today.

BOP Regional Council flood manager Roger Waugh speaks to media.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council flood manager Roger Waugh speaks to media. Photo: RNZ / Leon Menzies

Edgecumbe was still unpowered and some permanent pump stations had also been affected by floodwaters, by the council was bringing in more pumps from around the country, he said.

Whakatāne mayor Tony Bonne said Edgecumbe residents who had been forced out of their homes should prepare to be away for up to 10 days.

Some were staying with friends and family, but there is also an evacuation centre in Whakatane.

Mr Bonne said there was no power in Edgecumbe at the moment and the sewerage system was not working.

There were also health risks from the contaminated floodwaters.

Despite Civil Defence saying yesterday that some people might be allowed back today, Mr Bonne today was reluctant to put a timeframe on when that might happen.

As sections of the town are given the all clear, people will be allowed back in stages.

Civil Defence said they were confident there had not been any looting in the town.

Community meetings for evacuees

Two community meetings will be held today for residents evacuated from their homes.

The first will be held at 4pm at Rautahi marae in Kawerau.

The second will be held at 6pm at the Whakatāne War Memorial Hall.

Continued flooding prompts warnings for motorists, farmers

Waikato District Council reminded motorists not to drive on closed roads, after some people ignored the signs and became trapped in floodwaters in their cars.

The council said in a release today many roads in Waikato would remain closed this weekend, and would be reassessed on Monday after water levels receded.

Farmers were warned to be careful where they put their stock, as some riverside areas may still flood, and the council also asked boaties to steer clear of power lines crossing local rivers, particularly on the Waipa River.

Council spokesperson Adam Munro said although the heavy rain had stopped, excess water could still break the banks of some rivers in Piako.

He said water breaching the stopbanks and flowing into paddocks was expected, and is part of the flood-system design in Waikato.

Mr Munro said the council was monitoring the water levels closely, and any landowners concerned about flooding should get in touch.

The council said evacuated residents around Bay of Plenty could have to wait another three days before they would be allowed to return home.

picture of a flooded farm at Galatea.

Photo: Supplied

Boil water notice after sewage contamination

Meanwhile a boil-water notice remains in place for the Ruatoki and the Rangitāiki Plain areas.

The council said residents in Te Teko, Awakeri and Braemar needed to bring water to a rapid boil for at least one minute before it is safe to drink.

The notice would also include Edgecumbe after residents returned.

Whakatāne District Council civil defence controller Paula Chapman said caring for flood-affected evacuees and fixing infrastructure would be the priority in Bay of Plenty this weekend.

She said they would also keep isolated communities informed and try to clear affected roads.

Ms Chapman said specialist crews would determine what needs doing to fix infrastructure and facilities as the water starts to recede.

"Infrastructure-wise, before people can go into areas that perhaps the houses haven't really been affected but they won't necessarily have services so they won't necessarily have water and sewerage and what not.

"So we will be trying really hard to reestablish those services back in."

She said the best-case scenario was that some pumps would start working today and some people may be able to return home.

Communities still cut off

Whakatāne mayor Tony Bonne said yesterday that people were still isolated in Minginui, Ruatahuna, Te Whaiti and Ruatoki.

He said they were trying to figure out exactly how many people were cut off and emergency supplies were being delivered by air.

More properties across 500 hectares in the Bay of Plenty could be evacuated as flood waters moved to lower ground.

Council flood manager Roger Waugh said properties to the north-west of Edgecumbe, towards the Awaiti Canal and up near Thornton and Matata Roads, were most at risk.

"The floodwaters are migrating down to the lower areas and down into the lower canals. There are issues as it goes through there, there's likely to be maybe some other evacuations, there'll be other property affected and of course obviously it's a farming community, so there's obviously stock and the dairy operation that's being affected."

Mr Waugh said the water may not reach those areas, but residents should stay on high alert.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs