Tuesday, July 25, 2017
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More should be spent on data gathering

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Ian Kinvig counts himself very, very lucky. The flood waters that so severely damaged Edgecumbe just down the road and flooded neighbouring farms in April, didn’t flow through his West Bank Drive kiwifruit orchard.

“I went out to check the river and it was just starting to dribble over the stopbank, so was running at a depth of couple of metres above our orchard. We are so lucky it didn’t spill over,” says Ian, who got the first of his fruit harvested just after the April 6 flood.

Grateful as he is to have escaped, Ian is angry Edgecumbe residents were so hard hit, saying the wall which failed, letting the Rangitaiki River race through the town, should have been strengthened years ago.

“When you see the remains of the wall now it’s obvious it didn’t have proper footings. Most houses would have better footings than that.

“Council is continually increasing building specifications and reassessing where people can build in light of predictions about what the weather will do in future as the climate changes, but it seems they don’t apply the same standards to their own structures.”

Ian also believes the Bay of Plenty Regional Council should invest more in sophisticated technology to gather data from the extensive catchments which feed the rivers flowing into the Eastern Bay.

“The technology is available, and pretty cheaply. If it was used to predict big flows of water, then the drainage and canal systems could be better used to cope with it.”

Matahina Dam

In Ian’s opinion, the water in the “lake” which formed near Edgecumbe could have bene contained by the Matahina Dam.

He acknowledges that the volumes of water brought by ex-Cyclone Debbie were extreme, with an estimated 900 cubic metres of water flowing through a system designed to handle about 500 cubic metres.

“There’s probably not just one thing which went wrong. It’s probably a combination of factors, including the water level in the Matahina Dam, the timing of the use of the Reid’s floodway, the amount of rainfall and the maintenance of the stopbanks – especially in Edgecumbe.

“A lot of criticism has been levelled at Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne someone I have a lot of time for and I’m not sure he is to blame.

Monitoring systems

“However, I do think regional council has lost touch with what’s happening in this region and should use money from its shares in the Port of Tauranga to improve its rainfall and river flow monitoring systems.”

Ian wonders if the independent inquiry set up by regional council, to be headed by former Labour deputy Prime Minister Sir Michael Cullen, will discover exactly what went wrong and apportion any blame.

“After all it was the Labour Government of 1987 that corporatised the New Zealand electricity industry including small hydro stations like the Matahina Dam, which was built in 1967 to provide a local power supply and act as a flood control mechanism,” says Ian.

Comments on SunLive


Posted on 08-05-2017 17:04 | By Papamoaner

Yes, I remember that. Widespread devastation with decades of recovery time, psychological and physical.

Posted on 08-05-2017 13:51 | By overit

Apart from the stopbanks letting go, this is exactly what happened in Queensland 5-6yrs ago. The C ouncil was worried about the water in the dam and let it go-the flood in Ipswich looked like a lake, you could not even see the rooves of the houses.
Data gathering?

Posted on 08-05-2017 12:36 | By Papamoaner

The article heading could have said "more should be spent on scientific research" That’s what data gathering is. The accumulation of seemingly useless data over very long periods has lead to some of our most spectacular discoveries in medicine, industry, and science, simply because that’s how trends are identified. We once had a world class internationally respected DSIR that did just that, but Rogernomics destroyed it. Many of our problems can be traced back to the harm done by Douglas, Prebble and Lange aka Rogernomics, where the economy was modestly repaired at other enormous cost to people and country. We are now seeing the effect of it.
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