New Plymouth residents are being warned to steer clear of contaminated beaches, rivers and streams in the city after heavy rain overwhelmed several sewerage pump stations causing them to overflow into nearby waterways.
About 100mm of rain fell in 24 hours in parts of Taranaki today, closing streets, causing surface flooding, and forcing at least one school to call for parents to pick up their children early.
Neil Holdom said the district council had been forced to mobilise its emergency response team.
"We've had stormwater inundate the wastewater system. We've had sewage overflows at Ngamotu Beach, at the Te Henui pump station near East End Beach, at the Huatoki pump station in town and we've also had reports that the Waiwhakaiho River has overrun the pump station at Glen Avon."
He did not gloss over the implications of that.
"Essentially we've got sewage in the waterways in those areas so we have to put up notifications at the beaches and streams. The concern is that we need people to stay out of the water for a few days because the system has just been overwhelmed with stormwater and so there's a risk to public health."
Spud Andrews - a greenkeeper at the Paritutu Bowling Club - was fishing mats out of its flooded greens and said he had seen it all before.
"That little river there broke the banks ... and flooded the green. You can see how high it is over there on the wall. It's not the first time and probably won't be the last time."
Mangaotuku Stream simply could not cope with the amount of rain this morning.
"They were supposed to have unblocked it further up there so the water could go, but I think we just had too much rain today. Just too much rain. It couldn't handle it, so she had to go somewhere so she come over the top of the banks."
Across the road, St Joseph's School principal Mike Dowd said the stream came up from one moment to the next.
"It was just really intense heavy, heavy rain. So I guess if that was a deluge that's what it was and the river just come up, broke the banks really quickly and the road became a river. It was impassable really from both ends."
He ditched the gumboots and went barefoot to help the children into school.
"Yeah just ferrying kids out of cars and supporting parents. We had a teacher aide and a caretaker down there, umbrellas and coats. Just getting kids up and across the road safely and just monitoring traffic as well. Trying to alleviate the congestion."
With more rain forecast this afternoon, Dowd put the call out to parents to pick up their children after lunch if possible.
MetService meteorologist Lewis Ferris was happy to confirm just how wet it had been.
"Heavy rain has definitely been around the Taranaki region and over the last 24 hours coming down into New Plymouth especially there have been 90mm in the last 18 hours up to midday. That's more than what was recorded in all of November 2019."
The outlook was better, however.
"The good news is as the evening progresses the rain will ease back. We do have a heavy rain warning in force until 6pm and severe thunderstorm watch until 8pm."