River-clearing pleases farmer

A Te Anau farmer whose land has been flooded twice by water backing up in the Upukerora River says he is pleased Environment Southland is spending $40,000 on urgent work to remove accumulated gravel from the river's lower reaches.

Most of the 100,000cu m ''slug of gravel, silt, weeds and rubbish'' washed down the river during high river flows at Queen's Birthday Weekend had accumulated in the main channel and the town's sewage ponds were now at risk of flooding, catchment manager Noel Hinton said last week.

The river was still flowing in its original channel, about 100m from the sewage ponds, but the real risk lay in the river permanently finding another route because of the gravel, he said.

Contractors began removing up to 10,000cu m of gravel from the main channel last Tuesday and were expected to finish later in the week.

Environment Southland staff would then carry out a detailed survey of the river and analyse how much gravel remained before formulating a plan for its regular removal.

Riverbed activity requires resource consent, but Mr Hinton said the work was carried out under the emergency provisions of the Resource Management Act and consent would be authorised later.

In January and again at Queen's Birthday Weekend, gravel blocked the river mouth at Lake Te Anau, and the river flooded about 12ha of Max Slee's farmland. One of the fences repaired after the January incident was destroyed again at Queen's Birthday Weekend.

After the second flood, Mr Slee was one of several Te Anau residents who criticised the council for not keeping the channel clear.

Mr Slee said he was ''pleased the council was doing something'' and hoped regular gravel extraction would be carried out.

''We have a lot of movement in the rivers here. Gravel comes down from the mountains and we are first cab off the rank.''

Mr Hinton said keeping the river on its original course was ''a balancing act''.

''We know that gravel will come down, and we can't stop it. Once it gets below the Milford road bridge, someone has to remove it.''

The council was working with contractors who would remove the gravel in exchange for them keeping it, he said.


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