22 May 2023

Clean-up begins for central North Island after weekend of wild weather

10:03 am on 22 May 2023
Hoihere Road near Ōroua River in Manawatu-Whanganui, with the flood barrier deployed on the far side of the bridge during flooding on 21 May, 2023.

Hoihere Road near Ōroua River in Manawatu-Whanganui, with the flood barrier deployed on the far side of the bridge during flooding on 21 May. Photo: Supplied / Horizons Regional Council

Central North Island towns are in clean-up mode after heavy rain caused river banks to burst and evacuations around the region.

Slips and flooding closed sections of State Highways 3 and 4 on Sunday and the Rangitikei District came close to declaring a state of emergency when the Tutaenui Stream overflowed.

In Whanganui, residents were warned more slips could occur as land in the area remained saturated.

About 20 people were evacuated from Putiki, a low-lying area next to Whanganui River, on Saturday night.

Rangitikei mayor Andy Watson told Morning Report the weather was looking "much, much better this morning".

"Today will be a clean-up mode day where we go and assess rural roads," Watson said.

"Most of our town streets are reopened so looking much, much better."

Welfare checks would take place on residents today, Watson said, after some people who evacuated made their way back home last night.

Flooding in Rangitikei district

Flooding in Rangitikei District at the weekend. Photo: Rangitikei District Council

The district came close to declaring a state of emergency, but Watson said it felt the situation was being dealt with locally and no extra resource was needed.

The weather had been on the district's radar but Watson said he had not anticipated the Tutaenui Stream breaching its banks.

Some roads were still affected by slips, and it was currently a matter of surveying them to work out what damage there is.

"We have a couple of businesses I know that have had water through them. There will be a clean-up there, there will be a lot of local roads that are under water or have been under water. So literally, it's finding out how much of the rural network has been damaged by slips and subsidence."

Flooding in Marton 21/5/2023

Flooding in Marton on Sunday. Photo: Supplied / Lequan Meihana

Whanganui mayor Andrew Tripe said there was a "large and complex" landslip on Shakespeare Road near Kowhai Park.

Getting that sorted was a priority, as was welfare checks on people who had evacuated.

"The ground is very saturated so it doesn't take much for flooding to occur. Because we are predominantly a hill country area, some of the land is vulnerable to landslides.

"At the end of the day, it's the safety and welfare of our community that is the most important aspect of these events."

Tripe told Morning Report he was confident its emergency management team was up to speed on dealing with such situations after many weather events in recent years.

"In saying that, a lot of these houses have been around for a long time and built on flood-prone areas. It's a matter of working with these particular families and to work with them and navigate through whatever the future brings."

Tripe said he had driven past the Whanganui River this morning and it was pretty much back to normal levels.

"I can actually see some blue skies outside as well so I think we are definitely out of the worst of it and hopefully can get back to some normality in the next few days."

But Tripe said people still need to be mindful of the risks of driving on flooded roads.

"Some people have tried to drive through those and had to be rescued. Driving with roads that are either closed or only suitable for 4WDs, people just need to be very careful.

"I saw a photo of one car that had literally floated to one side of the road so it's not recommended to try and drive through these areas."

Roading crews will spend the week clearing slips and trees following the wild weather, Waka Kotahi said.

Its Manawatū-Whanganui and Taranaki system manager Rob Service said drivers should be careful.

"We have had a lot of debris, we've had a lot of flooding in places so there will be a lot of stuff, twigs, bits of trees, etc spread around the roads so drive carefully, slow down, drive to the weather conditions, drive to the road conditions and be safe out there."

Service said crews were waiting for floodwaters to go down before they can reopen part of State Highway 3.