2018 flood events Q&As
Questions and answers following 2 flood events in our Tairawhiti district on 3-4 and 11-12 June 2018. The issues were the impact of the flooding, road closures and woody debris (slash).
20 June - a community meeting was held in Tolaga Bay - Community Meeting Notes [PDF, 219 KB]
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Q&As about the impact of slash
- How extensive was the damage and what are you doing about it?
The damage is extensive – particularly to directly affected land, rivers and the coast. We'll need to carry out an environmental assessments to determine the long-term effects.
- Whose fault is it?
This is one of the issues we're focusing on in investigation.
- How much is it going to cost?
It's too soon to say.
- Will more slash come down?
If we have similar rainfall, in all likelihood yes.
If we see in our investigation remedial action that needs addressing now, we will require it.
- What happens if it rains again?
This issue is heavy rain - greater than 25mm/hour.
- Are there any other vulnerable areas?
There are vulnerable areas across the region. People who live in vulnerable areas need to treat them like other natural hazards and be prepared.
- Is slash management a condition of their resource consent?
Yes it is.
- Where did it come from? Logging companies or logging sites?
We're working on a detailed analysis of the material. Whether it's material that's been left on slopes after harvest or another source, we don’t know yet. There'll also be material such as poplar and willow from the riverbanks and material left in the tributary streams from previous storms.
- Do you monitor to ensure they comply?
We have more than 3,500 consents to monitor and 1,250 active forestry consents. Our compliance focus included doing the Cyclone Cook study into what measures we could put in place – and we have taken those recommendations into our consenting process. We've also changed our charging policy so that we can recover more costs and do more compliance monitoring. Compliance monitoring is not just boots on the ground – we also require companies to report on performance against consent conditions. It's for any consent holder to know and understand the condition of their consent and to ensure staff are well aware of those conditions and also to adhere to best management practice and comply with other industry codes.
In terms of regional consenting we have 3 staff to monitor all consents. The number of consents in the last year or so has increased substantially and will increase in future. More staff resources are needed to monitor sufficiently into the future and we're in the recruitment process.
- Why don't forestry companies do burn-off after they've finished harvesting?
Some forests do burn some slash but burn-offs in the middle of a forest is quite risky from a fire hazard perspective.
- What happens if companies are found to be in breach?
Council takes any non-compliance extremely seriously and is investigating these events.
- Who's doing the clean-up of beaches, rivers and reserves?
Forestry companies are helping clean the beaches. There are a number of other areas in the district where we're looking into, including Tikapa, Waiomatatini and Waimata Valley.
- What have we been doing to minimise the impact on our waterways?
The government has produced a national standard for plantation forestry. We've lobbied long and hard to make that standard something which enables our issues to be addressed. We've introduced new rules in our Freshwater Plan aimed at getting forestry activities away
from waterways. Freshwater Plan
- Are you liaising with any Ministries over the forestry slash issue?
Yes - with the Ministry of Primary Industries about their Billion Tree project and its implementation locally. We're supportive of native reversion and this is what landowners are telling us they want too.
- Who is going to remove all the slash from my property?
Forestry companies are working with individual landowners.
- Why did this damage occur?
On very steep land we can get landslides occurring in areas that have been recently harvested. These will pick up the slash and form a debris flow down the hillside into the river.
- Did Council encourage these trees to be planted, even subsidised it?
This is true, the past Councils did encourage forestry in this location - Manuka was cleared and pine planted. We're not sure if it was under subsidy from the Crown, but it's possible.
- Why do other regions seems to do it better?
Other regions have less forestry and less eroding land. We have 8% of the land area of the North Island, but 25% of the severely eroding land. Our forestry is mostly located on that land. After Cyclone Bola much of that land was planted with forestry to stablise it. Now that forestry is being harvested. The amount of harvest underway has been increasing massively, but our resources to manage it have not been able to increase at the same rate.
- Has Council failed to set and enforce appropriate riparian margins?
When these forests were planted 25 years ago,no riparian margins were provided for. Riparian margins are a requirement for new forestry planting.
- Is Council investing if companies were following rules around harvesting and storing logs?
Yes Council is launching an investigation into forestry compliance.
- How many forestry companies operate within the affected area?
There are 3 forestry companies operating in the directly affected area: Hikurangi Forests, Ernslaw One and PF Olsen. We're still assessing damage across the wider region and there may be more forest companies involved.
- Will you be prosecuting any forestry companies?
Council is launching an investigation into forestry compliance following this the flood events and will not make comment on this while it's in progress.
- Did the forestry companies follow best practice?
This is an active investigation and while Council takes any non-compliance extremely seriously we cannot comment on the case or the possible consequences. In general terms - where a breach of a consent or the RMA is identified, Council will instruct those who are not compliant on what they must do immediately to remedy the issue.
Where Council finds that serious offending has occurred it has the option to prosecute the responsible party or parties under the Resource Management Act.
If the person/party refuses to address the issue and/or environmental harm is occurring, Council can apply to the Environment Court for an enforcement order requiring the person/party to take appropriate steps. Enforcement orders can also authorise Council to take steps to address the issues and recover costs from the responsible party or parties.
- The 2017 Slash Investigation Report
A report following the impact of Cyclone Cook in 2017 and the Slash Investigation Report
Council looked into what measures we could put in place and we have taken those recommendations into our consenting process. The staff who prepared that report also had a number of proactive workshops with the forestry industry and the Eastland Wood Council Environment focus group to educate them on the findings and seek improvement is practice.
Roads and bridges affected
- When will all the roads be open?
As of 20 June, 8 roads still closed in the Uawa area. There are many Uawa and East Coast contractors working in this area clearing slips, removing debris, fixing dropouts; however, even though some roads are clear we still need to go through with our inspection teams to make sure they're safe. This will include safety measures like cones and orange netting.
- Who prioritises the fixes?
Tairawhiti Roads – they're prioritising roads on infrastructure that’s at risk of future rainfall events – like Wigans Bridge, getting access to Eastland Network to restore power to homes, fixing main priority routes, potential well being issues – residents who required medical assistance, doctor's appointments and farmers who were concerned about animal welfare - stock running out of feed.
- Why is it all taking so long?
Our contractors have been working non-stop to clear roads and bridges, but road safety is paramount. Last week we had 130 people working across the network.
- What's the worst affected roads in Tolaga Bay?
Tauwhareparae and Arakihi roads.
- What about the bridges?
A bridge also includes large culverts. Over the last week we had to inspect structures, we've found cracks in Wigans Bridge which can be managed if we place a speed restriction of 30km. Other potential measures include speed humps each side of the bridges. We have 109 bridges and culverts to inspect - check the progress.
- What about trucks using closed roads?
We have security guards monitoring the closed roads.
Ratepayers and government subsidy is paying for the security guards.
- How long will the clean-up take?
The focus is on opening roads. We're continuing to assess infrastructure. Also gathering information on the amount of debris still out at sea, with more likely to come to shore in the next few weeks.
The clean up will take months, with work on some roads it will take up to 3 years. We're still assessing the full extent of the damage but preliminary costs are likely to be in the $10 million mark.
- Who pays for the clean-up costs?
Council and the NZ Transport Agency foot the bill to clean up roads and our assets. The forestry companies have offered their help with the clean up of both Council drains and private property. They are working with us and have made equipment and staff available, we're working with the companies to coordinate the works and they'll get out and start work as soon as possible.
- Is the slash the biggest problem to clean-up from roads and bridges?
Damage to roads and bridges is likely to be the most significant problem. Wood debris is going to be a big issue too in terms of clean-up due to the sheer volume and how it's stored and disposed of. This is going to take some time to clear. Forestry companies have offered their full support and resources for assisting with the clean-up.
About the flooding
- Why didn't we get warned about the storm?
MetService didn’t predict it – it was a very concentrated storm cell which opened above the Tolaga - Whangara area. They've now asked for access to our monitoring data to better inform their models. In the second event a heavy rain warning was issued and warnings were put out by email and Facebook. These were updated when received by MetService which is usually 12 hourly.
- Why wasn't it declared an emergency?
A declaration is only required if the CDEM controller needs power to: • evacuate people; • close roads; • restrict public access; • requisition property /equipment; • tell people what to do. These powers weren't required in this instance and it does not mean that we get any more assistance than we're currently getting.
- What are our warning systems and their activation mechanisms?
A warning or even a watch alerts the CDEM and flood warning team that there may be an issue with the rivers. The river levels are monitored by the flood warning team and they notify the CDEM team when trigger levels are reached. At Uawa, we alert our Community Link team early on in the event and keep them updated throughout. Once the river reaches a set level the area headquarters are set up and the local team meet. If we need to warn and then evacuate the area then the local team does this.
- What are the flood recovery plans?
We have a flood plan for the Tolaga Bay area, this is dated 2013. CDEM has worked closely with the flood warning team to update the standard operating procedure that gives us extra trigger levels to keep us informed of the rise of the rivers.
- Who's involved and for how long?
The CDEM team and the flood warning staff work closely together in these events.
- What support is available for affected people?
The CDEM welfare team consisting of Council, MSD, MBIE, MPI and other agencies have stepped up to help those people affected with food and clothing for those who lost everything.
Government agencies help with grants and MBIE with housing. This is a coordinated approach. MPI have called this a medium-scale event and this entitles farmers to help such as ETFG and hardship grants.
- How are we investigating this weather event?
We're investigating the scientific aspects behind the weather event looking at our own flood warning systems, information from MetService, the effects on the streams and coastal environment and the long-term impact. This will take several months to complete.