Weathering Far North storms
Published on 23 July 2020
Last Friday, Northland was hit by record-breaking rainfall that caused widespread flooding, slips and damaged key transport and other infrastructure. We are still assessing the impacts and will not know for some time what the total repair bill will be.
What is certain is that a number of our residents were hard-hit with homes and businesses damaged, particularly in Moerewa. At the height of the storm on Friday night, Moerewa was effectively cut off with State Highway 1 flooded at Kawakawa and at the bottom of Turntable Hill. Two community civil defence centres were opened to support travellers stranded by the floods with 30 people hosted at Kawakawa and 15 at Moerewa. Over the next two days, Council staff were out in force supporting residents and other agencies to assess property damage and welfare needs.
They completed 109 rapid property assessments in Moerewa on behalf of Civil Defence and the Council, while another five staff co-ordinated the emergency response from our Kaikohe office. In all, we had 19 staff working on Saturday and eight on Sunday. They found that 37 Moerewa properties were without working sanitation and another eight had inundated septic tanks. Two properties were evacuated, and two others were provided with drinking water.
Meanwhile, in Paihia, debris and silt in the Waitangi River damaged water intakes and a submersible pump cutting water supplies to the Paihia Water Treatment Plant. Our Infrastructure and Asset Management Team and alliance partner, Far North Waters, spent most of the weekend on temporary repairs while our Communications Team raised awareness of the problem in the Paihia community. We got the plant operational again late on Saturday night, thanks to the heroic efforts of Far North Waters staff who didn’t leave the site until 3am on Sunday when they were sure the plant could meet demand.
Elsewhere, pump stations at our wastewater treatment plants worked around the clock to deal with stormwater infiltration, while our staff and contractors assessed and cleared debris from roads. As many as 20 district roads were closed on Sunday. This had been reduced to just four roads on Monday. State Highways were also impacted with SH 11 to Opua temporarily closed by a slip, and SH 1 at Mangamuka also closed.
We are no strangers to weather extremes in the Far North. In a matter of weeks, we have gone from drought to deluge. I was extremely proud to witness the professionalism, dedication and empathy Council staff displayed when dealing with the emergency.
Working closely with other agencies, we delivered the services our residents required. That collaboration is what makes our communities strong and the Far North a great place to live. I am proud of the work we do for our people, not only in emergencies, but each and every day. So next time it’s pouring down and the wind is howling, spare a thought for those braving the weather to ensure roads are open and our infrastructure keeps running.