12 Feb 2024

Wairoa flood protection plan expected soon

2:08 pm on 12 February 2024
Wairoa in northern Hawke's Bay after the Wairoa River burst its banks on Tuesday.

Wairoa in northern Hawke's Bay after the Wairoa River burst its banks in February, 2023 when Cyclone Gabrielle hit. Photo: Hawke's Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group

The flood-ravaged town of Wairoa is just weeks away from a decision on how the town will be protected from being inundated yet again.

In the year since floodwaters devastated much of the small town, owners of about 600 homes have been in limbo - also known as Category 2A - waiting to hear whether anything could be done to safeguard them.

Wairoa has no flood protection - and the alarm was sounded as early as 1948 that that had to change.

After Cyclone Gabrielle, the government earmarked $70 million to protect Wairoa from flooding - and in about six weeks, Hawke's Bay Regional Council and its partners would reveal how they planned to do that, chief executive Dr Nic Peet told RNZ.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council chief executive Dr Nic Peet.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council chief executive Dr Nic Peet. Photo: Supplied / Hawke's Bay Regional Council

It had been working with Wairoa District Council, post-settlement organisation Tātau Tātau o Te Wairoa, and the community to come up with the plan.

"That stakeholder group is working through a shortlist of four or five options, with the idea that they'll settle on what's hopefully the best option for Wairoa," Peet said.

"We're really conscious that we can't have people sitting in 2A for forever and ever."

The clean-up continues in Wairoa on 21 February following Cyclone Gabrielle.

The clean-up in Wairoa on 21 February, 2023, following Cyclone Gabrielle. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Tātau Tātau o Te Wairoa chair Leon Symes said the imminent solution would be a huge relief for impacted whānau.

Repairs had been on hold, and insurance had been hard to access, while the town waited to learn whether their homes could be protected, he said.

"It provides security both mentally, and from a wellbeing perspective for whānau that there is a plan, we have funding secured, and we've had community buy-in on that plan so we can ensure that the work starts quite quickly without having to go through any delays for whānau."

Pōrangahau in Central Hawke's Bay is home to 130 properties also sitting in Category 2A.

The timeline for reaching their solution was less clear - but Peet was confident they would find one.

All flood protection work across the region should be completed in the next five years, and the council was working with government to find ways to speed up the lengthy regulatory process, he said.

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