New Zealand North Island – 100s Evacuated as Wanganui Sees Worst Ever Floods

More than 400 people were evacuated from their homes after major floods hit areas of lower North Island, New Zealand between 20 and 21 June 2015.

The floods were caused by several days of heavy rain, with over 100 mm falling in 24 hours in some areas.

According to New Zealand’s Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, the floods have affected the regions of Manawatu-Wanganui, Taranaki and the township of Hokitika in the West Coast Region.

One of the worst hit areas was Wanganui, where the local council said they have experienced “largest flood ever recorded in our district” after the Wanganui River overflowed. A state of local emergency is still in force.

In a statement made earlier today, the district council said that the floods have started to recede as levels of Whanganui River have dropped significantly, allowing the clean-up operations to begin. The statement went on:

“The Wanganui District is in recovery mode after experiencing the largest flood ever recorded in our district.

The situation in the rural area is still being assessed. There are a large number of slips on rural roads. Our focus today is to continue to identify the many rural residents who are isolated because of road slips”.

About 75km north of Wanganui, the township of Pipiriki was completely cut-off by the flooding, forcing emergency crews to airlift residents out by helicopter.

Flood evacuations were also carried out in other towns, including Horowhenua, Waitotara, Manawatu, Rangitikei and Taranaki.

According to the Civil Defence, “Taranaki remains in a state of emergency today following the heavy rainfall and flooding over the weekend. Taranaki Civil Defence Emergency Management is assessing the welfare needs of residents and isolated communities without power and road access”.

Rangitikei District Council lifted its state of local emergency earlier today.

Flood Damage

The floods have caused power outages, as well as widespread damage to roads, bridges and buildings. Local media are already speculating that the damage will cost 100s of millions of dollars. As of earlier today, 1000s were still without power.

Rainfall in New Zealand for a 24 Hour Period to 20 June 2015

Figures below from New Zealand Met Service

Palmerston North – 132.6 mm
Wanganui –  88.2 mm
New Plymouth – 95.6 mm

Dunedin Floods

Earlier this month Dunedin in the Otago Region in the South Island of New Zealand, suffered severe flooding after near record levels of rainfall forced local rivers including the Leith, Lindsay and Silver Stream to overflow.

Dunedin City Council said about 1,250 properties were damaged in the floods, and 280 families left needing serious assistance.

Floods in Dunedin, New Zealand,  03 June 2015. Photo: Jon Sullivan, licensed under Creative Commons
Floods in Dunedin, New Zealand, 03 June 2015. Photo: Jon Sullivan, licensed under Creative Commons

$3.2 million Funding for Natural Hazards Projects Including River Floods

Just last week, New Zealand Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce announced $3.2 million in funding for 13 new research projects under the Natural Hazards Research Platform.

The Research Platform was created in September 2009 by the Government to provide secure, long-term funding for natural hazard research, and to help research providers and end-users work more closely together.

The projects, which will run for two years from July 2015, address a broad range of natural hazard threats including active faults, river flood and coastal inundation hazards, and modelling aspects of volcanic activity in the central North Island.

“The 13 successful proposals demonstrate exceptional science quality and the presence of emerging researchers with excellent track records,” Mr Joyce says. “The projects will augment existing platform research and will strengthen or lead into new areas of research of national significance.

“Several of the successful proposals apply lessons learned from the Christchurch earthquakes to other regions of New Zealand. They also embrace the recommendations of the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission to investigate the potential presence of hidden active faults under urban areas.

“Another proposal will start the development of a national volcano hazard model to complement the widely-used national earthquake hazard model. And a further project will examine the potential of earthquake and landslide-driven tsunami in South Island lakes.”

The Research Platform encompasses five themes – building geological hazard models; predicting weather flood and coastal hazards; developing regional and national risk evaluation models; improving societal resilience; and improving the resilience of buildings and infrastructure. It is led by GNS Science and includes NIWA as a co-anchor along with the University of Canterbury, Massey University, Opus Research and the University of Auckland as partners.

The new research will complement the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges National Science Challenge, and the QuakeCoRE Centre of Research Excellence in earthquake resilience.