West coast braces for more flooding


The predicted heavy rains are making residents of Buller anxious and frustrated as they threaten further flooding in the hard-hit region.

Severe weather warnings are in place for Buller and Westland, as well as Marlborough Sounds and parts of the Tasman district, until Thursday evening.

Heavy rain is expected to hit the area with rivers and streams expected to rise rapidly.

After two major floods in the past year, it’s a situation locals know all too well.

Rose Jackson has been back in her Westport home for just about four months, having been evacuated by Civil Defense in July 2021 as floodwaters inundated her property.

Jackson said it’s hard not to worry about the uncertainty of the days ahead.

“Apprehensive…is the word I would use,” she said.

“Not knowing what’s going to happen, it could get very nasty or it could be a big event and come to nothing. It really depends on how much rain we get.”

MetService warnings indicate that 150mm to 280mm could fall across most of Buller over the next two days.

Stephen Switalla also just returned to his newly repaired Westport home in April after suffering flood damage last year and further weather warnings left him frustrated.

“We went through July and I thought everything was fine,” he said.

“We are now in the middle of August and we are getting this big rain warning again.

“It’s quite upsetting when you hear it, especially with the amount of precipitation they’re predicting.”

Another Westport resident, Tania Hawken, told RNZ that every weather warning was stressful and her anxiety was at its height.

She said she had spent the day before lifting objects in her garage onto higher surfaces after discovering during last year’s flood that her private insurer did not cover flood damage to contents from the garage.

Severe weather warnings are also in place further north in Tasman and Marlborough, with a similar amount of rainfall forecast for the Marlborough Sounds over the next few days.

Along the Kenepuru Strait, Ross Withell fears the road he lives on could suffer further damage after flooding last year caused a major stall.

“If this weather bomb comes to something like what is predicted there will be more damage, it’s just inevitable,” he said.

The Buller civil protection team set up an emergency operations center for residents and sandbags were made available.

Buller Mayor Jamie Cleine said the last 24 hours had been spent preparing.

“We are just putting in place the necessary steps and we have resources coming from outside the district,” he said.

“It’s just a wee bit early to determine exactly where and what resources will be needed.

“Local volunteers are stepping up to help with sandbags and things like that.”

Nelson City Council was urging residents to check that drains and gutters are free of leaves and debris.

A spokesperson said sandbags should be considered and properties near water, or in low lying areas, should prepare for flooding.

Tasman District Mayor Tim King said civil defense and road crews were preparing to move into Golden Bay where heavy rain was forecast.

Heavy falls were also predicted for the Richmond and Bryant Ranges and the Motueka Valley.

“If we get this very intense event in one of these places, it can have very serious ramifications. We’ve already had this much rain in the past eight to ten weeks, so the ground is already heavily saturated. “

Waka Kotahi/NZ Transport Agency said there was a higher risk of falling trees, slips and rockfalls in these areas as the rain continues in a very wet winter.

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