18 Aug 2022

Weather impacts: $200,000 injected into mayoral relief fund for Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough

4:39 pm on 18 August 2022

The government has injected $200,000 into the mayoral relief fund for Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough as the weather causes extensive damages to roads and property across the regions.

Watch the briefing with Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty here:

McAnulty was visiting the Group Emergency Operations Centre in Richmond today after visiting flood-hit regions in the upper South Island.

Wild weather has been causing chaos across the country, with a state of local emergency in place for the Nelson-Tasman and West Coast regions.

Slips, flooding and washouts have disrupted traffic across the Tasman District and there are fears of more flooding.

As he was taken around the damage, McAnulty said were two images which stuck in his mind today.

"One was that we were literally watching a hill just flow on down, it was like you were pouring out yoghurt out of a container, just this thick gludge just carrying on down, steady as.

"And also a relatively new development, where the middle of the road had just been washed out, a carter that was deeper than I am tall.

"We were talking to some of the residents there and they said they just couldn't believe their eyes as they watched it come out."

He had only been there for a few hours when the briefing started, but long enough to see the extent of the damage, he said.

The mayoral relief fund was done on a needs assessment, he said, but as the damage and welfare need was clearer then more support could be provided.

Occupants of 233 homes near the Maitai River in Nelson were evacuated after the river burst its banks, and another 10 households in the Tahunanui Hills have had to leave because of a slip.

In the Richmond Ranges, which run between Nelson and Marlborough, locals say rivers and creeks are running higher than they have ever seen them.

The worst affected areas are Canvastown, Rai Valley, Pelorus, and Okiwi Bay.

Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese said there was potential for more slips and flooding in Nelson and therefore potential for more evacuations.

People should stay off the road, she said.

There was damage throughout the city and to people's homes, some of which would be uninhabitable, she said.

Damages to homes:

  • Roughly 20 percent of the homes assessed in Nelson Tasman District have been either yellow or red stickered.
  • 308 houses have now been evacuated across the district since the severe weather came in yesterday.
  • 104 have been assessed today for damage and roughly 20 of those have the two tiered stickers.

Civil Defence has got through half of the rapid assessments to determine whether people are able to return to their homes and they are hopeful to keep all of the assessments by the end of tomorrow.

Civil Defence Controller Alec Louverdis advised people to work from home if they could and stay off the roads.

It was between a one in 80 and one in 100 year event, he said.

Maitai River was very close to 500 cumecs. (A cumec is equivalent to an old VW beetle coming towards you, so if you can imagine 500 VWs coming towards you, he said.)

He said it was very fast and took everyone, including himself, by surprise.

Reese said they were checking in with the emergency operation centre every few hours.

She said she had never before seen the degree of overflow in the Maitai River, and that was one of the things that had caused the damage.

She expected the recovery would take years.

McAnulty said the Defence Force, police, iwi and seven councils had lent help.

There was one street they thought would not be affected because it was up a hill - but the flooding ripped right through the middle of the street, he said.

Then he came across a mother and son who had to walk down the street to get to the shops because they could not use their car, and he said they were so thankful their house hadn't been touched and were sad for those whose houses were impacted.

MP for West Coast-Tasma Damien O'Connor said he had been keeping in contact with Civil Defence controllers in Westport and Hokitika, where the weather had eased off, but there were still some concerns about Haast.

Flood damage evident on State Highway 6 after severe flooding.

Flood damage evident on State Highway 6 after severe flooding. Photo: Supplied/NZTA

More rain 'going to push the Wairau River up'

Marlborough emergency management officer Gary Spence told Midday Report there had been consistent rain overnight.

"We sent a response team into the Rai Valley area before any road closures," Spence said.

"We managed to medevac two people out from the Rai early this morning assisting St John and Fire and Emergency doing that."

A lot of fences had come onto roads because of the floods, he said.

"It's still very unpassable."

Some residents - concerned by flood waters and sewage around the house - in Rai Valley were assisted to friends and families' homes on Wednesday night, he said.

"We're expecting more rain in the Blenheim area ... and rain in the southern Richmond area which is going to push the Wairau River up ... so that's another area of concern we're looking at later in the day."

He advised residents not to drive out if there was no need and to be cautious while driving through floodwaters.

Another front due in Buller as residents allowed back home

People in 160 homes in low-lying parts of Westport who were asked to leave on Wednesday in case their homes were flooded have been allowed back home, Buller District Council said.

Watch Buller mayor Jamie Cleine and emergency management controller Al Lawn give a briefing on the flooding:

In a conference on Thursday morning, Buller Emergency Management controller Al Lawn said MetService had advised another front was due in the area tomorrow, around lunchtime.

"That will continue through 'till about Saturday lunchtime, so we're mindful of that."

More than 600mm of rain had fallen in the Tasman Mountains and more than 400mm in some lower-lying areas of Tasman and Nelson between midnight Monday and 10am today, MetService said.

Lawn said if people wanted to go home they could, but he asked residents to bear in mind what had happened in February of this year, when "we got slammed after sort of easing off a bit".

"We want to make sure that we're prepared for anything that comes through."

The area's Emergency Operational Centre (EOC) would continue to be staffed, Lawn said.

He said Civil Defence was "really, really happy" with how the community had responded to the weather event and he was happy a precautionary approach had been taken.

"We'd rather do that than not - it's been a good outcome so far."

Buller Mayor Jamie Cleine said things "went well" overnight and those who had self-evacuated overnight had been told it was reasonably safe for them to return to their properties today to check for damage.

"Right across the district, I believe we've got away relatively unscathed."

Cleine acknowledged the flooding was hard on people both financially and mentally but said a detailed plan on how to improve flood defences in the area was now before Cabinet.

The issue had always been not just about what could be done but how it could be funded, he said.

"I'm hopeful for a favourable outcome about how we protect this town."

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