Seeing hundreds of homes flooded in Paeroa in 1981, cows up to their udders in mud and a colleague’s vehicle pulled from a bog only to end up in the river.
These are just some of the memories from Kevin Campbell as he retires after 52 years with the regional council and its predecessor organisations.
The Paeroa-based special projects manager for integrated catchment management finishes up with the council today.
Kevin started with the Hauraki Catchment Board in 1964 as an engineering cadet. He’d been attracted to rivers after spending many hours swimming, eeling, shooting and building rafts on the Waitoa River. The thought of being involved in the construction of waterways, stopbanks, floodgates and pumpstations interested him.
Eventually, he worked on the major Piako River and Waihou Valley schemes which provide essential flood protection. Since local authority changes in 1989, he’s had a variety of roles with the regional council. He says it’s been very satisfying to help make a real difference.
“On a winter’s day at Kerepehi Office in 1964 I saw the neighbouring farmer’s herd of cows in the adjacent paddock up to their udders in mud. You do not see that today and that is due to the Piako River Scheme.
“A big transformation has occurred on the Hauraki Plains over the last 50 years with the much improved drainage allowing farmers to develop a huge area of land to enable the high level of production we see today.”
Kevin recalls helping come up with a solution to ensure enough water was available to tackle a large peat fire at Mangawhero Rd, being trapped for 36 hours in the Kauaeranga Valley reading a gauge during a flood, and helping deal with the aftermath of the 1981 Paeroa floods when more than 200 homes were flooded.
“Families were unable to return to their houses to live for months until repairs were carried out.”
The good thing is the Waihou Valley scheme has helped end these sorts of big flood events, he says.
There have been laughs too, says Kevin. A colleague managed to haul a vehicle out of a bog only to see it go into the Piako River “with the motor still running and still in gear with the big rear flotation wheels turning like paddles”. (It was eventually retrieved using a dragline.)
Hauraki-Coromandel manager Graeme Osborne says: “Kevin’s been a huge asset to the Waikato Regional Council over the years. We will miss his company, his contribution to the team and the huge body of experience and knowledge that he is taking with him – but we will be staying in close touch and we wish him all the best in retirement.”