‘Like a tsunami of mud’: Roads closed after wild weather swept through Tararua

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Savage weather cut several local roads through Tararua, including this landslide on Birch Rd East near Herbertville.

Tararua District Council / Tips

Savage weather cut several local roads through Tararua, including this landslide on Birch Rd East near Herbertville.

Tararua district was bombarded with rain over the weekend leading to road closures and ongoing water problems.

The district has seen rural roads affected in Herbertville and Ākitio areas while water tankers have been brought to Dannevirke to compensate for disruptions in drinking water supplies.

Both access roads to the coastal village of Ākitio were damaged by the storm.

Ākitio campground and store owner Colleen Cox said they held up well to the weather, but the storm caused surface flooding on their property.

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Washouts like this on Coast Rd have closed one of only two roads leading to the small coastal village of Ākitio.

Tararua District Council / Tips

Washouts like this on Coast Rd have closed one of only two roads leading to the small coastal village of Ākitio.

“We are all doing well here, although the sea was quite impressive.

“We’re lucky to have a lot of DIY farmers and land clearers who can clear it a bit. River Road is just passable now but Coast Road is totally closed.

River Rd suffered severe stalls and landslides and in some places was reduced to a single lane.

“We usually have power outages from these kinds of storms, but luckily the lights stayed on, so that’s positive,” she said.

Coast Rd, between Ākitio and Pongoroa, remained closed after suffering stalls and landslides.

Roads around Weber and Herbertville were also affected, with Birch Rd East and Franklin Rd experiencing landslides and falling trees. Both had now been cleared.

Parts of Route 52, between Pongoroa and Herbertville, have also been reduced to a single lane.

Cecil Radford participates in the management of the Marainanga station on the banks of the Ākitio river. She said the storm was the worst she had seen since arriving in the area in 2016.

“The Ākitio river was extremely swollen – the highest I have ever seen.

“It was just amazing. The water was pouring down from the hills. It almost felt like mud, a falling tsunami. It was pretty impressive.

She said driving on Route 52 on Friday was treacherous with slides and trees all over the road, but after the storm the community had regrouped.

“Most of us have big machines here, so we were fixing fences and clearing paths.

“Everyone’s been on the phone to make sure they’re okay, and it doesn’t look like anyone we know has been cut.”

The storm also impacted water supplies in Dannevirke and Eketāhuna, with precautionary boil advisories issued for both towns due to turbidity in the Tamaki River affecting access to drinking water. .

Water tankers were driven to Dannevirke where a water station was installed to provide residents with a supply of drinking water until the river subsided.

Drinking water was an ongoing problem for the district, and the storm had only exacerbated the situation.

MetService communications meteorologist Lewis Ferris said Dannevirke received up to 80mm of rain Thursday night and Friday morning; the same amount Dannevirke could expect in an entire month.

“Storms like this are heavily influenced by tropical air being pulled towards us and are more likely to occur during the hottest times of the year, especially since we had a major dry spell in January.”

When asked to what extent these events were attributed to climate change, Ferris said it was difficult to identify the exact characteristics or symptoms.

“These weather events have been happening for a long time and some of New Zealand’s biggest storms have caused similar levels of damage.

“It’s hard to say how much of an impact climate change is having, as we would expect this type of weather after the dry part of the year.”

Tararua District Council provides road and storm damage updates on its website and social media pages.


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