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Weather a reminder of need for flood protection asset

Published: 2019-08-11

Paeroa turned on the weather to remind its residents of the need for flood infrastructure when Waikato Regional Council showed off the town’s new floodgates today (Sunday, 11 August).

The rain was torrential overnight ahead of the morning demonstration, and it bucketed down again after the speeches and formalities had been completed.

Coromandel MP Scott Simpson, who spoke at the event, told those who braved the weather with umbrellas that the rain was very appropriate for the occasion.

“It’s right and proper dreary. Because we have days like these that is why the floodgates are so important.”

The new floodgates, which were put in in August last year, run along a rail across State Highway 26 near the Criterion Bridge, closing the gap through the town’s western stopbank which the road runs through.

They help keep the Ohinemuri River between two stopbanks, the other of which runs along the east side of the river and protects the CBD.

“One of the things I remember as a kid was the devastating floods in Paeroa, the last time in the early ’80s,” Mr Simpson said. “Back then they had Lego type blocks which they put up here, and they worked quite well; I remember looking at them and thinking they shouldn’t but they did.

“These gates give a real sense of security. The old system was time consuming, energy inefficient, and diverted key personnel from other emergency work that could be done.”

The old system across SH26 was made of aluminium stop logs, nine across and three high, which had to be erected before the water came though. Before them, pre-1982, the stop logs were wooden. These systems took about 12 staff an hour and a half to put up, compared with 15 minutes to close the gates.

“So these gates are the third generation solution across the highway,” said Waikato Regional Council chair Alan Livingston.

“The gates cost all up close to $1 million but will last a considerable time. This is money well spent. They are a vital part of the Waihou-Piako flood scheme which protects Paeroa, Ngātea and Thames.”

Waikato Regional Council Hauraki-Coromandel manager Adam Munro said the floodgates, which were built in the United Kingdom, were the only ones of this kind in New Zealand.

“They help protect this town against a 100 year flood level. They are 2.7 metres high and weigh 5 tonnes each so they are pretty solid because the river can run at 1000 cubic metres per second when in full flood. The gates have back support bracing to counter the weight of this water.”

Waikato Regional Council integrated catchment management operations team leader Kenny Growden said the community demonstration was important, as flood protection was often invisible until it was needed.

“How many times does the community drive over the road and never really notice the gates here? The last big flood was in ’85. People don’t know what they are, what they do and why they are there,” Mr Growden said.

Cr Livingston thanked those who braved the weather to watch the  demonstration of the floodgates, and acknowledged the support of community members and councillors on the catchment committee.

Criterion Bridge floodgate opening, August 2019.

Criterion Bridge floodgate opening, August 2019.