27 Aug 2022

Marlborough and Nelson flooding: Long, complex recovery ahead

6:46 am on 27 August 2022

A massive clean-up in the top of the south is underway after major flooding, and is being described as likely the "biggest recovery ever faced" in the Marlborough region.

Cars are seen crossing the Wairau River Bridge on SH1 between Blenheim and Picton on 20 August, 2022.

Cars are seen crossing the Wairau River Bridge on SH1 between Blenheim and Picton on 20 August, 2022. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

More than 150 homes in Marlborough and Nelson have been red-stickered after the mass flooding from heavy rain earlier this month, and many arterial routes connecting the regions remain shut.

Swathes of the Marlborough Sounds remain cut off.

But the state of emergency was lifted yesterday afternoon and the clean-up is now underway.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett said it had been a traumatic 12 days for the flood-ravaged region, with work to continue over the weekend to repair damaged infrastructure.

Contractors would be out this weekend fixing local roads, and barge companies would be delivering supplies to those cut off in the Marlborough Sounds, Leggett said.

"Opening up all [those roads] is key for us so, yes, there will be crews out.

"But we do know in the Marlborough Sounds that there are still, and will remain for some time to come, some isolated communities."

The damage in the Marlborough Sounds, Port Underwood, French Pass, d'Urville Island, Canvastown and Rai Valley is significant and extensive with many areas still isolated.

A large part of the Marlborough Sounds is only accessible by boat. Power and phone networks are restored to the majority of the region but a small number of outages remain.

Thirty homes have been given red placards and 59 yellow. Read more about what that means here.

Drier and more settled weather is expected through to the middle of next week.

Rainy conditions along SH6 in the upper South Island on 18 August, 2022.

Rainy conditions along SH6 in the upper South Island on 18 August, 2022. Photo: Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency

Waka Kotahi has pledged to re-open State Highway 6 to Nelson by Wednesday morning - although traffic management will be in place.

Leggett said the agency had committed to opening the alternative route State Highway 63 by the week beginning 12 September.

The region was open for business and welcomed visitors, he said.

"Over the past week, our communities have rallied together to support each other, and I know they will continue to do so," he said.

"The generosity of neighbours within Marlborough has been outstanding.

"The recovery is going to be a long haul. It will be complex, and it will require input from several key agencies at a local and national level. We know many of our local roads, particularly in the Marlborough Sounds, will be inaccessible or affected for some time to come.

"Rest assured we will do all we can to get our communities connected again as quickly as possible, but it is going to take time. And there will need to be some big decisions made about roading in our region on this journey."

Marlborough Emergency Management incident controller Dean Heiford said it would likely be the biggest recovery ever faced in the region.

Insurer IAG said the spread of claims from the wild weather event as of 8am yesterday was:

  • 634 Nelson
  • 163 Tasman
  • 133 Marlborough
  • 162 Auckland
  • 143 Wellington
  • 65 Northland
  • 46 Taranaki
  • 125 properties remain red-stickered in Nelson region

    Road damage after flood water receded.

    Road damage after flood water receded. Photo:

    Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese warned residents to be careful because the risk from contaminated floodwaters was still high.

    "Make sure that you're really washing your hands and being careful about hygiene," Reese said.

    Nelson City Mayor Rachel Reese meets with Civil Defence during the response to major flooding in the region

    Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

    "If anyone gets a gastro bug, public health do want to know about that so we can manage that."

    If any residents with spare, self-contained housing that could help those displaced by flooding, she said.

    More than 125 properties remain red-stickered, leaving some residents unable to return to their homes, instead staying in motels.

    Assisted entry for red-stickered houses will happen over the weekend, and residents will be contacted directly.

    Reese said support would remain in place for anyone who needed it.

    Flood waters have ripped open the road in Devenish Place, Atawhai, just north of Nelson

    Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

    In the meantime, businesses in Nelson are open.

    Reese said free buses would continue around the city for the next few weeks.

    She said visitors were more than welcome, though people should ring ahead to make sure accommodation and plans were in place prior.

    "Please don't think that Nelson is a no-go zone because it's not".

    Beneficiaries to help out

    Beneficiaries will be pitching in to help farmers and grower in flood ravaged parts of the top of the South Island get back on their feet.

    The government has activated the so-called 'Enhanced Task Force Green' in response to flooding in the Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough districts.

    Acting Minister for Social Development and Employment Priyanca Radhakrishnan said unskilled and semi-skilled workers on the Jobseeker benefit would help clear debris and repair structures.

    "If your farm has been impacted or local roads for example have been impacted and you need all hands to the pump then this is a fund that helps to both get people there who are willing, and also to cover their wages.

    "It brings communities together as well."

    Farmers and growers can register by contacting the flood recovery co-ordinator, and job seekers should contact the ministry.

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