Floods cost estimate $1 million

The Shag River covers Craig Rd near Palmerston.
The Shag River covers Craig Rd near Palmerston.
Green supervisor Tim Nichols contemplates the flooded grounds of the Maheno Bowling Club...
Green supervisor Tim Nichols contemplates the flooded grounds of the Maheno Bowling Club yesterday. Mr Nichols had been preparing to uncover the green to re-sow it for the summer season before the rain came.
The Shag River covers Switchback Rd near Palmerston.
The Shag River covers Switchback Rd near Palmerston.
KiwiRail staff clear trees from beneath the Shag River rail bridge, near Palmerston, yesterday....
KiwiRail staff clear trees from beneath the Shag River rail bridge, near Palmerston, yesterday. Photos by Craig Baxter.

Farmers, residents and businesses in North Otago and East Otago start a massive clean-up today, following two weeks of rain which caused an estimated $1 million in flood damage, but the MetService has warned more wet weather is on the radar.

A MetService spokeswoman said coastal Otago residents could expect cloud or fog in the mornings and evenings for the rest of this week, with mainly fine days.

However, high cloud was expected to develop on Sunday and patchy rain to fall later in the day. At least another two days of steady rainfall were forecast for early next week.

It was too early to accurately predict at this stage how long the rain would last, but she advised those in flood-prone areas to be prepared.

Raineffects Dunedin hydrologist Dave Stewart said the ground was sodden, but rivers in the region were dropping quickly.

"Hopefully, if we get a few fine days, the rivers will continue to drop and the ground will dry out a bit, which means we should be able to cope with a bit more rain next week.

"It really shouldn't cause too much grief," he said.

Waitaki District Council assets group manager Neil Jorgensen warned the $1 million cost of damage was a rough early estimate. Three separate episodes of flooding in just over two weeks in the district had caused "significant damage" to roads, such as Gards Rd, near Kurow, which had a river flowing down it, creating significant scouring, pot-holes and washouts.

However, Mr Jorgensen felt damage was not as bad as May 2010, when four days of heavy rain caused $1.5 million in damage.

Emergency repairs would qualify for a substantial subsidy from the New Zealand Transport Agency. The council also had a multimillion-dollar emergency fund it could draw on.

Dunedin City Council roading maintenance engineer Peter Standring estimated damage to the city's roading network could be up to $250,000, which included the repair of a major slip on Mt Cargill.

Flood-affected roads are still causing disruption across much of North Otago, as buses servicing Oamaru schools were cancelled and motorists advised to stay off all rural roads.

Up to 27mm of rain fell in Oamaru between 9am on Tuesday and 8.30am yesterday, which flooded many roads and isolated rural families.

Maheno sheep farmer Doug Brown was cut off for two days.

He said the family home was well provisioned, but the weather had resulted in the deaths of early lambs.

"The worst of it is with the lambing. We have lost quite a lot of lambs, unfortunately. I think most people will not be lambing yet, so I think the losses will be minimal. We lamb our older ewes quite early."

Waitaki District Council emergency services manager Chris Raine said there had been no need yet to evacuate rural residents, but urged anyone who had been cut off to contact the council or Civil Defence.

"We have some families that are definitely isolated. We had that confirmed this morning. We know they have got no road access into the area, but unless they have specific medical problems or another problem, we will just have to sit tight until the roads reopen."

Yesterday morning about 35 roads were closed, and that number had risen to more than 45 by late afternoon. At least another 30 were in a "precarious" state and passable only with care, Mr Raine said.

The council had run out of warning signs because of the number of roads closed.

Civil Defence public information manager Elton Crane said notice of no "non-essential" travel had been issued for all rural roads in the district and warned that motorists should take extra care, as some hazards could not be signposted.

The rain had also affected at least one local business.

The Alliance meatworks at Pukeuri had to give some staff time off this week, after water supplies became too dirty.

Plant manager Geoff Proctor said one of the plant's two slaughter chains had been stood down for the rest of the week.

"We are on reduced production at the moment, because of the dirtiness of water the plant is supplied. We're struggling to maintain the levels we need to maintain all production.

"We restricted our kill levels from Wednesday, for the rest of the week, and we should be all right with the clearing weather to go back to full production on Monday.''

It had taken "a lot of juggling" but the plant was still operating, albeit on a restricted level, he said.

The Clutha District Council last night closed the Toko Mouth and Akatore roads near Milton due to flooding.


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