Canterbury flood response criticised by Goughs Bay residents

6:58 pm on 20 December 2021

When torrential rain set off a series of giant mudslides in Banks Peninsula's Goughs Bay, Marie Haley spent a terrifying night wondering if her house would go with them.

A dropout on Goughs Road due to storm damage in Goughs Bay on Banks Peninsula.

A dropout on Goughs Road after it was damaged by the water. Photo: Marie Haley

She and her family could only watch on as waterfalls cascaded down the hills, threatening their home last Wednesday.

"It was absolutely terrifying, there's no other word for it," she said.

"All of the hillsides around our house were just collapsing, just one after the other, after the other.

"The sound was the most frightening thing, it sounded like a major earthquake every time the slips went. It was just constant roaring for four or five hours."

When the rain eased, Haley used a generator to send a message to friends in Akaroa, who then made an emergency call to police to check their neighbours had survived.

Her rain gauge recorded at least 270 millimetres of rain in 15 hours.

Goughs Bay is cut off by road, and power and phone lines are still out five days after the deluge.

People are now assessing the damage and the initial emergency response, which left some feeling isolated and forgotten.

"There's no co-ordinated approach to the response, it's sort of Chinese whispers," Haley said.

"Access was incredibly hard, but at least some sort of acknowledgment of our situation would have been the best start. It felt like we had just been completely forgotten about."

A slip from the upper valley in Goughs Bay down to the stream

A slip from the upper valley in Goughs Bay down to the stream. Photo: Marie Haley

Farmer George Masefield said the scale of the devastation was extraordinary.

"It looks like a cross between Tolaga Bay and the beach, the amount of debris and devastation that's down there from forestry up above. The silt in places is a metre deep," he said.

Helicopters have been brought in to drop food, fuel and generators to families who have been cut off.

Masefield said just one person from Christchurch City Council had visited Goughs Bay.

"Council have been very slow on the uptake, they didn't even realise how bad it was. I took a Christchurch City Council fellow down to the bottom and he was just blown away by what is ahead of us with roading and all the rest of it," he said.

"I haven't seen Civil Defence at all. Come and have a look. Get down there and talk to people who are affected instead of bloody waiting."

Storm damage on Banks Peninsula.

Photo: Marie Haley

Christchurch City Council spokesperson John Filsell said he visited Hickory Bay, Long Bay and "ground zero" in Goughs Bay to get a first-hand look at the flood damage last Saturday.

"I am unaware of anyone else from my team or the council who's actually been to the bottom of the bay, but I certainly have," he said.

Filsell said he had also telephoned a number of residents in Goughs Bay.

Civil Defence teams were involved in the early stages of the response, but it was now up to the council, power and phone companies to work on the clean-up, Filsell said.

"On the main fronts there's been a co-ordinated response and it's as speedy as possible in the circumstances," he said.

"We don't trumpet it, but we're certainly there. The roads are being opened, power lines are being fixed, telephones are being reconnected."

Cattle stuck on the road after storm damage at Goughs Bay in Banks Peninsula in Canterbury.

Cattle stuck on the road after the storm damage. Photo: Marie Haley

Filsell said the council was sending out an information sheet to farmers, updating them on the progress of the recovery effort.

Orion was hopeful power would be restored to the last 19 remaining households in the next two or three days, while Chorus was working on restoring telecommunications within a similar timeframe.

Masefield said the road was not expected to reopen until the middle of next month.

"The road's non-existent in one spot, it'd be 20 metres by 20 metres, the whole area's just gone. You can't get a sense of how big it is from photos, it's astronomical really," he said.

The flooding has also wiped out years of conservation work and left dead eels lying in the debris.

Torrents washed away the nesting boxes of 30 Pohatu Bay penguins - the largest colony of little penguins on mainland New Zealand.

Conservationists rescued about 25 chicks that were kept in temporary hutches in the kitchen of their house, before being relocated to rehabilitation facilities in Robinson's Bay and Christchurch.

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