Uawa/Tolaga Bay banner image

Rising river levels lead to evacuation

Thursday 24 March, 2022

Police and FENZ (Fire and Emergency NZ) went door-to-door this morning, urging people in Manutuke and Te Karaka to evacuate as river levels in the region continue to rise, with others put on stand-by.

Those living along low lying points of Waingake Road at Manutuke were encouraged to evacuate just after 1.30am with others, living near the Waipaoa River at Te Karaka following a couple of hours later.

Residents along the Waimata River have been warned to be on stand-by as that too rises to alert levels.

Torrential rain through the evening and into the morning saw the Te Arai River levels rise to 3.2, superseding the 2.5m threshold for safety.

The call just after 1.30am, came with an e-text sent to those residents, and evacuations started almost immediately. Police and FENZ have been assisting those who need help to move, while others self-evacuated. People have been asked to report to the Manutuke Fire Station where a register is being kept with Manutuke School the evacuation centre. Welfare support is being deployed to assist.

Rainfall in the past 24 hours (to 2am) at Manutuke has been 183mm while Stout Street, in the city, has received 152mm for the same period.

Te Karaka residents who live near the Waipaoa River were urged to evacuate to the Scout Hall when the river level reached 8.01m at the Kanakanaia gauge.

“The rivers are continuing to rise,” says Tairāwhiti Civil Defence group controller David Wilson, “so those in nearby low-lying areas also need to be prepared to self-evacuate. If in doubt, get out.”

The Waimata River is at 8.53m (at Goodwins) and 7.9m (at Monowai).

While river levels are starting to stabilise, Mr Wilson says with further rain forecast he was concerned about the possible impact that could have.

All surface water around the district should be treated as contaminated and Mr Wilson is asking communities to lower water use where possible. “The wastewater system is inundated, so if we can take some of the pressure off there, it would be great.”

Drinking water is safe to consume. Mr Wilson extended a huge thanks to Council staff and contractors who have worked through the night across.

The region is now completely cut off, with SH2 to the north and south, and SH35 closed at Okitu.

Residents across the region are being asked to check properties and their neighbourhood and report any concerns to Council’s 0800 653 800 number.