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Flood mitigation urgency recognised

Heavy Rainfall being monitored

Wairoa will find a solution for future flood protection, but it must be the right decision and not rushed, says Wairoa Mayor Craig Little.

“The urgency around progressing flood mitigation options for Wairoa is acknowledged, but it is too important to just tick the boxes to make a quick decision,” says Mr Little.

Wairoa’s Flood Protection Stakeholder Group members continue to work through critical flood mitigation options, with minimising cultural impact a key consideration.

Mr Little said while the $70 million earmarked by the government for flood mitigation for Wairoa has a specific brief of shifting Wairoa’s 627 Land Category 2A properties to 2C and in the future Land Category 1, a holistic approach is also needed.

“The solution may be raising houses along with a spillway or stop bank. We need to consider all the effects of any decision-making. Some people’s homes and properties will be impacted by flood protection work, and we need to consider the effects this will have on people’s lives. This isn’t just about putting up a stop bank or digging a spillway, the ramifications on our communities and people are huge, and we need to get it right. If we don’t get it right, we could create bigger problems than we already have.

“We know it is frustrating to remain in Land Category 2A while the flood protection options are being worked through. We are committed to a solution and have asked the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council to move us to 2C to give certainty to our community and take the pressure off rushing flood protection decisions. It is unbelievable we are still sitting in limbo in 2A, and I will continue to lobby to get us shifted to 2C.”

The stakeholder group has also asked for a global approach to Wairoa’s flood mitigation.

“While the model needs to work from an engineering hydrological perspective, it also needs to work from a community perspective with the least impact on our whānau while offering the best protection possible. We must also acknowledge that we will never control Mother Nature, and flood prevention is not a silver bullet - but we can try to protect ourselves to the best of our ability.”

While engineered options are the driver behind flood protection, the group is also mindful of the impact of contributing factors such as the Wairoa River mouth management, slash/woody debris, the railway bridge, hydroelectric generating stations, river bank maintenance, siltation and the need for dredging and how each of these inputs may be minimal on their own, but they culminate to add to the risk of river flooding and need to be considered as part of the overall protection plan.

Discussions have also stressed improving the operational management process around the Wairoa River mouth to maintain an optimal position.

Group chairman Lawrence Yule said there is a need to capture local knowledge around the bar and preserve that for future generations to support robust processes. He described river mouth management as an art, not a science, and a dynamic situation where people on the ground need to use their experience around weather, tide management, currents and river height.

There is also acknowledgment from the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council that while river mouth management won’t solve flood issues, the bar does need to be proactively managed with local input and a short-term decision-making ability.

Meanwhile, the stakeholder group also had a presentation by the Ministry for Environment on the proposed Order in Council (OiC). Developed under legislation for all HB flood mitigation, the OiC aims to add more flexibility to the response, allowing quick regulatory changes to respond to issues as they arise.  The benefits of the OiC for Wairoa would involve speeding up the resource consents process to achieve the timeline of having flood protection completed in four years.


Following Cyclone Gabrielle, the Government earmarked $70 million for Wairoa to develop flood mitigation to a 1:100-year level to shift Wairoa’s 627 Category 2A properties to Category 2C and, in future, Category 1.

A Hawke’s Bay Regional Council engineering team has developed models based on community discussions, thoughts, ideas, and river data with options based on science, hydrology, and computer-generated modelling.   

These options are being considered by the Wairoa Stakeholder group and will be shared with the community for further engagement and feedback.

The stakeholder group represents a broad range of individuals and/or entities with a vested interest in the decisions and outcomes of the Wairoa River protection work. The purpose of stakeholders is typically to gather diverse perspectives, discuss various options and make informed decisions that benefit the whole Wairoa district through river protection work.

Final stakeholder and community preferences will then go to the Tripartite Partners, comprising Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Tātau Tātau o Te Wairoa Trust and Wairoa District Council, with the final decision resting with the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council as the authority responsible for flood protection.

Once confirmation is received that construction of flood protection for Wairoa will proceed, it is expected to take affected properties from Category 2A to 2C, and in future, Category 1.  A flood protection scheme will assist in managing future severe weather events, providing certainty for homeowners and businesses.  It will also allow whānau to stay in their communities and prevent properties from falling under Category 3 and the voluntary buy-out programme.

25 March 2024

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