4 May 2023

Bay of Plenty weather: Residents urged to stay vigilant for more slips

6:35 pm on 4 May 2023
Wet weather in Whakatāne's Valley Road

It was a busy morning for contractors working to clear a slip on Valley Road. Photo: RNZ / Ashleigh McCaull

The weather is clearing in Bay of Plenty, but residents are still fearful that more rain could catch them off guard.

The district council is warning those residents living around cliffs and under steep slopes that more slips could happen because the ground is still very saturated.

It was a busy morning for contractors working quickly to clear the remains of a big slip left on Valley Road which remains closed.

Some of the residents closest to the action were grateful the slip only licked their fences and did not cause damage to their properties.

Wet weather in Whakatāne's Valley Road

Photo: RNZ / Ashleigh McCaull

Bronwyn Peeti who has been living on Valley Road for 27 years has never seen anything like it down her street before.

"The police woke me up at four o'clock, knocking on my door, telling me to go out and see what's out the front of my house, so yeah very frightening," Peeti said.

But despite MetService dropping the rain warnings and watches, neighbours said they were still worried about further downpours and the possibility of new slips damaging their homes.

Te Okiroa Waimaria Hikurewa was concerned she might not be as lucky in the next deluge.

"As we can see, there's a tree up there and it's leaning forward so I'm guessing the rain will make it more loosened and that's going to come down. I'm a bit worried about that house up there too because it hasn't got that much earth holding it there so yeah it's definitely going to fall," Hikurewa said.

Angela Murphy had her car ready if she needed to evacuate.

"I stayed awake till about three o'clock this morning and I think I probably went outside on to the deck around about six or seven times just looking at things and monitoring things," Murphy said.

Above the landslide's path remained a house which was empty at the time the earth moved.

Wet weather in Whakatāne's Valley Road

The house perched above the landslide. Photo: RNZ / Ashleigh McCaull

The new owners only bought it last week for more than a million dollars. Now it is less than 2 metres from the cliff's edge.

A rapid building assessment has been completed but there will need to be a thorough geotechnical analysis of it.

It was an area like that one that had Whakatāne's Mayor Victor Luca cautioning residents, especially because there were a lot of escarpments around town.

Whakatāne's Mayor Victor Luca

Whakatāne's Mayor Victor Luca Photo: RNZ / Ashleigh McCaull

Although he believed the area might have dodged a bullet, he was still advising residents to remain vigilant.

"Those people that live in those sorts of situations near cliffs or at the bottom of escarpments need to keep a close eye on what's going on and listen to the advisories that council puts out. If they have any doubts I think the best thing is to voluntarily move," Luca said.

Several roads remained closed because of slips including the Waimana Gorge on State Highway 2.

Te Urewera general ward councillor Andrew Iles said the closures were putting pressure on the road network.

"We have no street lights in Whakatāne, we've got roundabouts and trying to manoeuvre those big articulated trucks around roundabouts is something else to watch," Iles said.

Boil water notice in place

Iles said the council was also still unable to get to the Rūātoki treatment plant so a boil water notice remained in place.

"The water source there has been contaminated so until further notice from district council most definitely boil that water for a minimum of three minutes."

Although the wild weather is starting to move down the country, MetService predicted there was still more rain on the way for the next week.

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