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Working through Wairoa’s flood protection options

Flood Mitigation Infographic

Learning from others and looking at a broad range of river flood mitigation and protection options were recurring themes in the recent ‘We need your kōrero’ hui with flood-affected whānau and members of the wider community.

Both held in August, the two hui were an opportunity to share flood protection thoughts, feedback and insights.These were phase one of an ongoing process of working with the community to look at what Wairoa’s future flood protection and mitigation solution could look like.

Across the Wairoa district, around 667 properties are sitting in Provisional Land Category 2A – which indicates more information is needed before any further decisions can be made about a pathway forward.

Wairoa Mayor Craig Little said Wairoa had welcomed the Crown’s recovery support package, which includes $70m ring-fenced specifically for flood protection work in the Wairoa district.

“This funding is huge for Wairoa and will support us in implementing the flood protection required to help manage future severe weather events and provide certainty for homeowners and businesses.

“It will also support us in keeping people and whānau in their communities and prevent properties in Wairoa from falling under the Land Category 3 property buyout.”

The Council is working in collaboration with the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Engineering and Environmental Consultancy, WSP and Tātau Tātau o Te Wairoa to collate and analyse information from various sources. A stakeholder group is also being formed to provide feedback on ideas, options and solutions.

Many residents would have recently received a letter from the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council updating the Land Categorisation situation and the next steps.

This letter has been emailed because so many whānau are displaced from their homes and, therefore, not receiving posted mail. If you haven’t received the letter, it is available in hard copy from the Wairoa District Council front office and the Wairoa Recovery Office based at the airport.

Mayor Little said it’s very important the time is taken to gather as much information as possible, which will be critical to informing the plan to protect Wairoa from future flooding events.

“Wairoa has been significantly impacted by flooding on many occasions, yet never before have we had an opportunity where we are supported to develop flood protection. It is crucial we get our planning right, and to do that, we need to hear from our community and listen to what people are telling us.”

Based on feedback already received, key themes from the submissions were improving drainage, creating wetlands and more riparian planting. There were also concerns around slash management, the right tree in the right place and wilding pine controls.

Options from rain gardens, sandbags, managed retreat and dredging, changing river pressure points, flood channels, and spillways were all proposed flood mitigation solutions. Stop banks were also suggested, but with a reminder that whatever you do on one side of the river affects the other.

Locals also wanted more information about the Waihi Dam and the potential for Genesis Energy to increase storage capacity. Feedback also identified a need for improved alert and warning systems, Civil Defence education and evacuation plans.

While Cyclone Gabrielle was labelled the worst weather event, it followed a similar path to the 1948 flooding and Cyclone Bola and broke through the same low-point areas. There was also feedback around the impacts of tree removal causing erosion, the amount of slash and the impacts from other waterways.

Early findings from the original feedback and potential flood protection options will soon be taken back to the community. The list of potential flood protection options is expected to be refined in line with community consultation. Once the preferred solution is identified, concept designs will be created, along with costings.

If anyone has any additional feedback, please email

1 November 2023

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