Rivers remain in flood, but little worry over rain

The lower Clutha and Taieri rivers remain in flood after this week's downpour, but forecast heavy rain over the weekend is not expected to cause "significant issues", the Otago Regional Council (ORC) says.

In an update this morning the ORC said forecast rainfall over the weekend is expected to cause rivers in North Otago and possibly the Water of Leith and Lindsay Creek to rise again – however, they are not expected to reach the levels seen earlier in the week.

River levels at Balclutha were continuing to fall slowly and its staff were continuing to closely monitor the condition of floodbanks, which were functioning well.

The lower Taieri is expected to remain high for at least the next 24 hours, partly due to snowmelt in the upper catchment.

NZTA says SH87 remains closed at Kokonga, with no detours available, because the Taieri is still in flood.

ORC said the snowmelt is expected to cause river levels to fluctuate.

The East Taieri upper pond is still holding around 26 million cubic metres of water ( 76% of its total capacity), but is starting to drain very slowly; if the river rises pond volume may increase again.

Flows in the Manuherikia are high and being influenced by snowmelt; this is being closely monitored by Regional Council staff.

River levels in the Silver Stream, Water of Leith and Lindsay Creek have returned to normal.

Meanwhile, despite a clear blue sky yesterday, residents in Dunedin and its surrounds were still coping with the aftermath of flooding.

A torrent of muddy water raged across the Taieri Plain yesterday, and houses in the Henley area were still cut off from SH1. 

Water levels have subsided in the city, after heavy flooding earlier this week. Dunedin City Council infrastructure services general manager Simon Drew said staff and contractors were continuing to deal with issues caused by the weather.

"Most of the floodwater has receded. However, high flows and surface water are expected to remain in parts of the Taieri Plain for some time.

"With more rain expected next week, we are continuing to closely monitor the forecast and conditions."

There is a severe weather outlook in place for the south of the South Island early next week, and rain is forecast on Sunday, easing on Monday. The heaviest falls are expected in the hills north of Dunedin, but the city will also see some rainfall. Several roads in the Dunedin area were closed yesterday due to slips, mainly in the Taieri and Strath Taieri area. Eight slips in total were reported around the city, and yesterday morning the road between Dunedin and Port Chalmers was temporarily closed due to a slip.

"[Council] contractors are busy working to repair roads and infrastructure and work is being prioritised," Mr Drew said.

"There may be potholes and minor damage in some places.

Henley farmer James Adam at his flooded property. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Henley farmer James Adam at his flooded property. Photo: Gregor Richardson

"We are asking people to please be patient as it will take us longer than usual to get to these."

At Allanton, south of Dunedin, dairy farmer James Adam said only 4ha of his 194ha farm remained above water.

Farm worker Kayla Wylie (19) said she had gone to move cattle as the water began to creep up, only to find the gateway to the paddock already submerged. It was an "eerie feeling" trying to move the animals knowing the water was rising behind her, she said. The water was expected to stay for at least five days before it drained, and once it had subsided, there would still be silt on the pasture.

Pukekos had escaped to the high ground of the road, to flee the Taieri River, and a number were seen hit by traffic yesterday.

Raw sewage was reported flowing through parts of Middlemarch on Tuesday, and yesterday residents were still being advised not to drink from private bores.

A council spokesperson said water was available from a tanker beside the Strath-Taieri Community Centre. People should bring clean containers to fill.

Streams in the area remained high and that was still having an impact on the wastewater network.

Sewage swept through the Tap and Dough Bistro, and owner Norma Emerson said most of her fridges had been condemned.

"We are waiting to hear back from the loss-adjusters," she said.

"From our point of view, there is not much to salvage."

Yesterday, she was busy ripping off wall panels, and  would  possibly have to remove counters as well. She had already pulled out the carpet. Mrs Emerson said the council could not prevent a weather event, and the staff she had dealt with had been "very helpful",  but she still voiced her frustration at what had happened.

"I think the council probably should take notice of something like this."

Brockville resident Maree Turnbull was upset more had not been done by the council in terms of drainage at the Brockville Park Recreational Reserve. Ms Turnbull said every time there was heavy rain, she and her partner had to dig ditches themselves to divert the water, and every couple of years there would be a rain event severe enough to cause their basement to flood. In the university area, the Water of Leith raged through the campus on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Otago Regional Council director of science, hazards and engineering Gavin Palmer said the flood meant work had to stop temporarily on the Union to Leith footbridge stage of the flood protection scheme.

Figures for the cost of the flooding to the Dunedin district were not yet available, and an Insurance Council of New Zealand spokeswoman said data was not available for the flooding event.

A statement from the council said sportsgrounds were still closed, and the Warrington Domain would remain closed until further notice.

elena.mcphee@odt.co.nz 

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