Stopbank problems? Hawke's Bay residents concerned about council flood work

May 22, 2024

Stopbank problems? Hawke's Bay residents concerned about council flood work

Massey University’s Joint Centre for Disaster Research reviewed the Hawkes Bay Regional Alert Systems in 2021, stating that “there is an opportunity to improve public alerting”. Photo: Rosa Katavich

Cyclone-hit Hawkes Bay residents say their regional council is taking “hypocritical” action with its work on stopbanks not good enough in trying to prevent a repeat of last year's deadly floods.

Cyclone Gabrielle devastated the region with flooding due to a myriad of causes, including that the infrastructure was overwhelmed, and residents say several risks were already highlighted in reports before the weather event.

Now Eskdale Holiday Park owner Daniel Gale says there are issues with how the Hawkes Bay Regional Council is currently rebuilding collapsed stopbanks.

He believes the level of precaution the council is taking doesn’t match the level of precaution taken with labelling properties as category 3 -  the threshold for intolerable risk to life.

“In Pakowhai it’s really hypocritical, because they flooded because the stopbanks breached.

“Now they’re going to put the stopbanks back to the same level they were before.

“So, they’ve put all these stopbanks back to a one in a hundred [year event prevention level].

“Congratulations... except, if we have a Gabrielle tomorrow, or in two years’ time, we’ll get the same outcome.”

He says the council was aware of these infrastructure issues due to previous floods in 2018 and 2008, and reports were drafted to prevent such devastation.

“They didn’t act on any of those [the suggestions], either, like giving us text alerts.”

The shells of many houses damaged by Cyclone Gabrielle’s flooding remain in Eskdale. Photo: Rosa Katavich

The shells of many houses damaged by Cyclone Gabrielle’s flooding remain in Eskdale. Photo: Rosa Katavich

Meanwhile resident Lynn Noanoa says an issue with a bridge and the mouth of the Esk River needs attention rather than a stopbank, saying the Council created the wrong kind of bridge for the environment, contributing to flooding issues.

“We think we don’t need a stopbank because, if the bridge was the correct kind of bridge and if the river mouth was open, we wouldn’t be in this position.”

The issue with the river mouth was noted in 2005 in a Hawkes Bay Regional Council flood hazard study, stating that “there have been many occurrences of the river mouth blocking from heavy seas” which is common for the type of river mouths such as the Esk River.

In the Council’s 2022 Community Engagement Report, they recognized multiple concerns from their community.

Esk’s concerns included the production of a flood control and prevention plan, the maintenance and building of drains for effective drainage and flood control, and the blocking of the river mouth.

Hawkes Bay Regional Council’s group manager of asset management Chris Dolly states that the council are looking into improvements for flood affected areas.

“We have a dedicated team of engineers who are working with the community of Pakowhai and taking their feedback on board.

“We understand that this is a difficult time for our communities impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle.”

The Council has also commissioned an independent and impartial review to both consider contributing factors that led to the flooding in the Hawke’s Bay region, and to recommend options to increase the area’s flood resistance, expected to be released in July.

The review will be addressing questions about maintenance issues, structural assets, flood responses, planning controls, and Mana Whenua.

Listen to Lynn Noanoa talk about her experience with the flooding here.

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