Failure to finish river work ‘a letdown’

Bluecliffs resident Rex Rowe. Photo: Tess Brunton/RNZ
Bluecliffs resident Rex Rowe. Photo: Tess Brunton/RNZ
A resident of an erosion-threatened Southland community is feeling let down after emergency management failed to finish planned work.

Coastal settlement Bluecliffs has been under a state of emergency since February 8 following heavy rain and swells, which accelerated damage caused by the Waiau River.

Late last week, Emergency Management Southland contractors aimed to realign the river, which backs on to properties, hoping it would slow down erosion.

But resident Rex Rowe said the plan had not been fully followed through, which was "a bit of a let-down".

"It is important that this is opened, very important. Because we’re leading into autumn soon, so naturally the river flow is going to be higher.

"There’s no wriggle room left."

Mr Rowe said the river — which runs next to to the sea — was "extremely close" to the back of the properties.

Another flood would be bad news for the community, and people wanted answers, he said.

The situation at Bluecliffs is being monitored by organisations including Emergency Management Southland, Environment Southland (the regional council) and the Southland District Council.

Southland District Mayor Rob Scott previously told media he was disappointed emergency management had indicated the job was complete late last week when that was not the case.

On Tuesday, Mr Scott said Environment Southland had confirmed more work would be done.

"We don’t have any answers yet in terms of what the next steps are but the fact that it’s being addressed and they’re looking into it is a good start."

Mr Scott said the work already undertaken had been completed over a couple of weeks while the river was very low.

"Of course everyone, and myself included, was getting very hopeful that there was going to be a light at the end of the tunnel late last week."

Civil Defence controller Simon Mapp said on Monday that Emergency Management Southland, and the district and regional councils would regroup this week to work out the next steps in opening the sandbar.

They would also discuss how to remove material from an exposed community landfill next to the river.

Bluecliffs is home to about 18 properties, although only six house permanent residents.

 - LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air