Wellington Scoop

Risk is over: evacuated Whanganui families return home as river levels fall

News from Whanganui District Council
Evacuated Wanganui residents and business owners were allowed back into their properties this morning.

“The good News is the Whanganui River levels dropped significantly overnight and there is no longer a risk of flooding in low lying areas of our city,” says Civil Defence Controller Kym Fell.

Mr Fell says the response from residents and business owners has been fantastic.

“They’ve been incredibly co-operative during the evacuation … Everyone has been so community minded. They evacuated themselves quickly and helped friends and neighbours move their precious possessions. Other residents offered beds and other support.”

The threat of flooding was very real and the warnings were based on hydrologist reports, readings of the river levels and forecasted weather patterns.

“It really was a textbook response and I really want to pay tribute to preparedness and planning of our Civil Defence, our emergency services, defence force members and volunteers.

Whanganui District Council lifted the State of Emergency at 11am, and are closing their Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) later today. The two Welfare Centres have been closed, and cordons have been lifted across the City. 214 people registered at the Civil Defence Welfare Centres during the event.

Rangitikei District Council also lifted their State of Emergency, and closed their EOC this afternoon. Ruapehu District Council, Manawatu District Council, Tararua District Council and Horowhenua District Council have also closed their Emergency Operation Centres.

News from Whanganui District Council – April 5
The Whanganui River at Pipiriki is forecasted to reach 13.3 metres by midnight. This is likely to result in 8.6 metres at the Whanganui City Bridge at 7.00am tomorrow morning. This is likely to mean that Kowhai Park stop banks could be overtopped which will result in flooding in low lying areas.

Evacuations began in low lying areas of Anzac Parade and Putiki from 12.30pm and aimed to be complete by 4.00pm this afternoon. Civil Defence Controller Stuart Hylton says evacuations have gone well.

“At this point, approximately 170 people from 112 individual residences have reported to either our Whanganui Girls College or St Paul’s Church. A number of these people will have self-evacuated. Our welfare centres are in full swing.

“We are working on evacuating households two houses deep from Anzac Parade and all of Putiki from State Highway 4 toward the Whanganui River. The evacuations will be co-ordinated by Police with support from the Defence Force and Civil Defence staff.”

If people have already self-evacuated, we ask you to please register with a Civil Defence Centre by calling (06) 349 0001 or go in person to Whanganui Girls College in Jones Street or St Paul’s Church in Guyton Street.

As a precaution, Taupo Quay, from Wilson Street to Victoria Avenue, and from Victoria Avenue to Bates Street is closed. Cordons and security personnel will be put in place in this area and sandbags will be installed.

Business owners in the closed area of Taupo Quay were able to enter their properties until 2.00pm today.

Earlier News from Horizons Regional Council – Aptil 5
Horizons Regional Council activated the Moutoa floodgates at 2.15am this morning, and deployed flood defence barriers at Whanganui Yacht Club, Kowhai Park and Balgownie due to high water levels in the Whanganui and Manawatu Rivers. Whangaehu and Turakina also remain on high alert.

Less rain that expected has fallen over the past few hours, resulting in reduced and delayed river levels compared to last night’s 10.30pm update. While this still remains a significant event, it is now predicted to be on a smaller scale than that of the 2015 flood event.

We now expect Whanganui River to peak at Pipiriki at 13.8m around 11pm this evening. This will result in an 8.5m peak at Town Bridge at 6.45am Thursday morning.

Rangitikei District Council advised residents of evacuations in the Marton area overnight. Their Whangaehu and Turakina community response plans have been activated. Whangaehu and Turakina property owners were contacted about the flooding of farmland, originally expected to occur this afternoon. This timeframe has now been changed to later this evening with Whangaehu expected to peak at 10m at 7.30am tomorrow morning.

Earlier News from Whanganui District Council
An intense band of rain has passed further north of Whanganui than expected. Evacuations are still likely, but later in the day. The state of emergency continues. A Civil Defence Emergency team is on standby.

If people wish to evacuate themselves we are advising them to check in with a Civil Defence Centre. Anyone who evacuates their home is asked to check in with a Civil Defence Centre, either in person, or by calling Whanganui District Council on 06 349 0001.

Two Civil Defence Centres are open:

St Paul’s Church in Guyton Street
Whanganui Girls College in Jones Street, Whanganui East

If you do not need to evacuate, we recommend you stay home and avoid travel. Weather conditions are still cause for concern. All Whanganui schools are closed today.

News from NZDF – April 5
The New Zealand Defence Force sent an additional 25 staff to Whanganui this afternoon to help evacuate residents, fill sandbags, check on residents in flooded areas and man cordons.

“We are closely monitoring the situation and are ready to provide additional assistance if required,” Air Commodore Kevin McEvoy, the Acting Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said.

This afternoon’s deployment brings to 50 the number of NZDF staff assigned to help in Whanganui and Rangitikei after the councils declared local states of emergency on Tuesday evening.

News from Rangitikei District Council – April 5
Metservice and Horizons Regional Council have revised the predicted river levels throughout Wednesday:

Whangaehu river is now expected to peak at 10 metres
Turakina river is now expected to peak at 8.5 metres
Tutaenui stream is NOT now expected to reach dangerous levels
We are NOT expecting the Rangitikei river to cause any issues.

All roads in and around Marton and Bulls, including the state highways, are open. Cordons will remain on local roads around evacuated areas, so if you are travelling please expect delays.

Marton: All businesses are open. All Schools are closed across Rangitikei (this will remain until the state of emergency is lifted). Early childhood centres were advised to close. Please contact Schools and childhood centres if you have any questions.

Bulls: No current issues
Whangaehu: No current issues
Turakina: No current issues
Koitiata: No current issues
Taihape, Hunterville, Mangaweka, and Scotts Ferry: we do NOT expect these areas to be affected by flooding

News from Rangitikei District Council – April 4
Rain levels are now predicted to be significantly more than previously thought – they could be at the same levels experienced in 2004. Therefore the Council has declared a state of emergency to deal with the expected impact. Residents who may be affected by the Tutaenui stream flooding will be evacuated this evening. There are likely to be evacuations at Whangaehu and Turakina on Wednesday.

RadioNZ reports this morning that the mayor of Rangitikei District, Andy Watson, says his town of Marton appears to have dodged a bullet. Fifty people were evacuated. But the town’s Tutaenui stream did not flood. Andy Watson says there is still a risk of flooding in farmland near the Turakina and Whangaehu rivers.

The mayor of Whanganui Hamish McDouall said the safety of the region was still far from assured. “We don’t have a lot of freeport, not a lot of wriggle room, so (the water) is going to be very close to the top of the stop banks,” he said. “People are self-evacuating and that is fine as long as they tell people where they are going. We are just telling everyone to get ready to evacuate (if needed), at short notice – everyone in Anzac Parade, Putiki and Taupuke.”