Green light for $5M-plus flood works

A $5.1 million project to better protect against damaging flooding in and around Otiria and Moerewa could be underway within months after more than 40 affected landowners recently gave their blessing to a proposed new Pokapu Rd bridge and an associated spillway.

News construction of the bridge could begin in April next year has been welcomed by Taumarere Flood Management Working Group member Pamela-Anne Ngohe-Simon for whom the build can’t come soon enough. Pamela-Anne, who represents the Otiria Rugby Club on the five-year-old working group, says it met recently at Moerewa to receive the news members had been hoping for; that the project would go ahead. The bridge – which will have three 20-metre spans – will replace an existing smaller structure and be built from April, with construction of the spillway likely to begin in about a year’s time in late 2022.

Pamela-Anne says in heavy rain the Otiria and Waiharakeke Streams flood at Otiria and Moerewa because their natural flows are affected by roading and railroads in the area. In a big flood, about 80 percent of the water from the Otiria Stream spills over nearby land as does 70% from the Waiharakeke Stream. The regional council plans to restore the streams’ natural flows by replacing the existing Pokapu Rd Bridge and building a new three span 60-metre-long single-lane bridge.

The spillway will skim the flood flow from the Otiria Stream and restore natural flow towards the Waiharakeke Stream. (Currently the flow is deflected towards houses and two marae and then eventually flows to the Waiharakeke after going through houses and the marae.)

Moerewa Flood Hui 20211113Taumarere Flood Management Working Group member Pamela-Anne Ngohe-Simon, left, and NRC’s Chantez Connor-Kingi discuss the proposed floodworks at a group meeting at Otiria recently.

Pamela-Anne says while the works would not stop flooding altogether, they would deliver ‘enormous’ benefits, including reducing the severity of a typical flood by about 75% and importantly reduce the risk to currently flood prone marae and the rugby club.

“The residents of Otiria are supportive of the spillway.”

The council says $2.8M of the project cost will be met by the central government’s regional development organisation Kānoa – RDU, another $1.6M from the NRC and the balance –about $600,000 – via a local rate on about 2300 properties in the affected area.

Pamela-Anne says over the past several years, the working group had workshopped about 20 flood mitigation projects and shortlisted three. 

  • Turntable Hill Bridge SH1 flood mitigation works – completed this year (A New Zealand Transport Agency/NRC project
  • Otiria-Moerewa Flood Mitigation Spillway – under way
  • A Kawakawa flood deflection bank – approved in the NRC’s Long Term Plan and scheduled for 2024. She says the regional council had shown considerable patience as it worked through the issues with the community, something she wanted to see acknowledged on behalf of locals.

“I really think some of our people don’t realise just how beneficial this will be. It’s been a long time coming and we’ve all worked hard to get to this point.”

“We’re only paying $600,000 of the $5.1M involved.” That meant the scheme would cost ratepayers just $52 annually, or roughly one dollar a week, for 12 years.

Working Group members include iwi/tangata whenua, KiwiRail, business, farmers, the New Zealand Transport Agency and others.

Meanwhile, the regional council has acknowledged local siblings Emma Mathews and Sydney Baker who were instrumental in organizing whanau support for the project.

It will be the third bridge built on what was their family land with the current bridge built in the 1940s.

That replaced an older bridge Sydney Baker remembers catching eels from as a child.