Floodwaters a problem for farmer

GET IT SORTED: Iwitea farmer Richard Robinson and trustee of Whakaki 2N Incorporated land block Lowen Vercoe want faster action from the Whakaki Lake Trust to resolve the long-standing issue of Mr Robinson’s land being flooded. Wairoa Star picture
The high water levels of the Whakaki Lake flood around 70 percent of Richard Robinson’s Iwitea farm.
Mr Robinson said he had to build roads with a digger to access his livestock.
Floodwater from the Whakaki Lake which rose to cover around 70 percent of an Iwitea farmer’s land prior to the lake being opened just under two weeks ago.
Farmland which is now uncovered following the opening of the Whakaki Lake.

A POSITIVE chapter has begun for the Whakaki Lake and the issue of flooding over neighbouring farmland, according to Hawke’s Bay regional councillor for Wairoa, Fenton Wilson.

It was a positive story they were working on now following discussions on how to manage the lake levels and prevent future flooding, he said.

More than 70 percent of Iwitea sheep and beef farmer Richard Robinson’s farm was flooded by the Whakaki Lake overspill.

The shallow and brackish lake has a narrow strip of beach dune acting as a natural barrier between the lake and the sea.

It is in the care of the Whakaki Lake Trust and is monitored by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC).

The trust and HBRC opened the lake two weeks ago to drop the water level.

While it has been manually opened to manage flooding for more than 50 years, and has been opened five times already this winter, once the lake has dropped to an agreed level HBRC will for the first time attempt to manually close it.

A week after the Whakaki Lake Trust and the regional council began opening the lake the water had significantly drained exposing the previously covered farmland.

Moving forward, the regional council as regulators of the lake, was undertaking an investigation into the issue to develop a long-term solution.

“This is the first coordinated positive action they’ve had at the lake,” Mr Wilson said.

“The issue is quite simply that in the summer the lake level goes down, and there is a risk if the lake keeps on draining.”

Mr Wilson said if it goes below a safe minimum level, it could have a negative effect on the lake.

“That’s when there is reluctance by the trustees to open the lake.”

He said there are two things the regional council was working on to determine a long term solution.

“We are working on a way to let out enough water and then stop the outflow.

“In the medium term, there may be a possible mechanical intervention to set the height of the lake, like a weir for example.”

Mr Wilson said once they found a way to maintain the lake levels, there would be less reluctance to let the lake out at certain times of the year.

“The challenge we have is what may be environmentally good for the lake, may affect the surrounding economy.

“If it gets too low, it could affect the aquatic life.”

Mr Wilson said the Whakaki Lake was a “special place” and it had experienced some challenges over time.

Whakaki Lake Trust chairman Richard Brooking said there would be a series of meetings held with the local community to talk about the future of the lake.

The plan was to develop another policy which addressed the flooding issue.

Mr Brooking said the regional council was assisting the lake trust with developing a longer term solution to the issue.

“We will work on getting more consistency over the lake level,” he said.

Mr Robinson said having discussions about the issue was a good step forward.

“At least we are talking about it and moving forward,” he said.

A meeting is set to be held this Saturday at Iwitea Marae to discuss the issue and a plan of action moving forward.

The Whakaki Lake Trust was currently working on its plans for further restoration of the wetland following the announcement of $2.8 million from the HBRC and the government.

Mr Brooking said the trust had sought a project manager to lead the way on the new restoration plans.

The trust would work with all involved including the people of Whakaki and Iwitea on the projects.

“We will work together to put a business case to the Ministry for the Environment which will outline in more detail the proposed restoration work.”

Mr Brooking said as part of the initial restoration plans, they wanted to establish manuka plantations and redevelop the former Whakaki School buildings into an environmental education centre.

They also planned to have complete stock exclusion from the perimeter of the lake.

Mr Robinson told the Wairoa Star last week that there was already extensive damage to his farm.

The refusal of the Trustees to previously open the lake to allow water levels to drop was detrimental to the livelihood of his family.

He had been forced to sell his stock as a result of the loss of productive land.

“I have run out of hay and had to buy in more for the stock I have left and am forced to graze the remainder on the Iwitea village road.”

His land, farmed by his family for generations, had always suffered from flooding but it had not been as bad as the last two years.

They had stop banks around their farm but the water had gone right over them.

Mr Robinson said once the water drained, his land would be ruined.

“It will take a while for the pasture and the soil to recuperate. I am forced to re-grass, mend fences and run my farm at a loss to get it back to a good condition.

The flood water had affected residents of the Iwitea village too, he said.

Septic tanks had been overflowing and people were unable to flush their toilets.

“Iwitea Marae is a civil defence area and it can’t be used.”

Trustee of the Whakaki 2N Incorporated land block at Iwitea Lowen Vercoe was also experiencing the same flooding repercussions.

Mr Vercoe, who was based in Gisborne and visited the area monthly, said the Whakaki Lake Trustees needed to control the body of water because what was happening was “criminal”.

“We are not trying to create a war, we just want to get this sorted.”

The water needed to be let out as the water level marker was reading significantly higher than the maximum, he said.

“It is a disaster zone — we need faster movement and faster action.”

Mr Vercoe said the bacterial count was up and the health of the water was at risk.

“It is a health and safety issue for the village.”

The Whakaki Lake Trust was formed in 1969 to protect and enhance the 1500-acre body of water.

The trust owns and manages the wetland environment, which was the largest of a network of wetlands stretching along the 35 kilometre coast from Nuhaka to Wairoa.

Earlier this year HBRC consulted with the public on a rates increase to tackle several local waterway hotspots.

Its consultation document stated a decline in water quality for Whakaki Lake over recent decades had diminished mahinga kai and other cultural values.

Its goal would be to continue to work with the lake trustees on their goal to restore the lake to a healthy state and improve the habitat for tuna (eels) and bird life.

A POSITIVE chapter has begun for the Whakaki Lake and the issue of flooding over neighbouring farmland, according to Hawke’s Bay regional councillor for Wairoa, Fenton Wilson.

It was a positive story they were working on now following discussions on how to manage the lake levels and prevent future flooding, he said.

More than 70 percent of Iwitea sheep and beef farmer Richard Robinson’s farm was flooded by the Whakaki Lake overspill.

The shallow and brackish lake has a narrow strip of beach dune acting as a natural barrier between the lake and the sea.

It is in the care of the Whakaki Lake Trust and is monitored by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC).

The trust and HBRC opened the lake two weeks ago to drop the water level.

While it has been manually opened to manage flooding for more than 50 years, and has been opened five times already this winter, once the lake has dropped to an agreed level HBRC will for the first time attempt to manually close it.

A week after the Whakaki Lake Trust and the regional council began opening the lake the water had significantly drained exposing the previously covered farmland.

Moving forward, the regional council as regulators of the lake, was undertaking an investigation into the issue to develop a long-term solution.

“This is the first coordinated positive action they’ve had at the lake,” Mr Wilson said.

“The issue is quite simply that in the summer the lake level goes down, and there is a risk if the lake keeps on draining.”

Mr Wilson said if it goes below a safe minimum level, it could have a negative effect on the lake.

“That’s when there is reluctance by the trustees to open the lake.”

He said there are two things the regional council was working on to determine a long term solution.

“We are working on a way to let out enough water and then stop the outflow.

“In the medium term, there may be a possible mechanical intervention to set the height of the lake, like a weir for example.”

Mr Wilson said once they found a way to maintain the lake levels, there would be less reluctance to let the lake out at certain times of the year.

“The challenge we have is what may be environmentally good for the lake, may affect the surrounding economy.

“If it gets too low, it could affect the aquatic life.”

Mr Wilson said the Whakaki Lake was a “special place” and it had experienced some challenges over time.

Whakaki Lake Trust chairman Richard Brooking said there would be a series of meetings held with the local community to talk about the future of the lake.

The plan was to develop another policy which addressed the flooding issue.

Mr Brooking said the regional council was assisting the lake trust with developing a longer term solution to the issue.

“We will work on getting more consistency over the lake level,” he said.

Mr Robinson said having discussions about the issue was a good step forward.

“At least we are talking about it and moving forward,” he said.

A meeting is set to be held this Saturday at Iwitea Marae to discuss the issue and a plan of action moving forward.

The Whakaki Lake Trust was currently working on its plans for further restoration of the wetland following the announcement of $2.8 million from the HBRC and the government.

Mr Brooking said the trust had sought a project manager to lead the way on the new restoration plans.

The trust would work with all involved including the people of Whakaki and Iwitea on the projects.

“We will work together to put a business case to the Ministry for the Environment which will outline in more detail the proposed restoration work.”

Mr Brooking said as part of the initial restoration plans, they wanted to establish manuka plantations and redevelop the former Whakaki School buildings into an environmental education centre.

They also planned to have complete stock exclusion from the perimeter of the lake.

Mr Robinson told the Wairoa Star last week that there was already extensive damage to his farm.

The refusal of the Trustees to previously open the lake to allow water levels to drop was detrimental to the livelihood of his family.

He had been forced to sell his stock as a result of the loss of productive land.

“I have run out of hay and had to buy in more for the stock I have left and am forced to graze the remainder on the Iwitea village road.”

His land, farmed by his family for generations, had always suffered from flooding but it had not been as bad as the last two years.

They had stop banks around their farm but the water had gone right over them.

Mr Robinson said once the water drained, his land would be ruined.

“It will take a while for the pasture and the soil to recuperate. I am forced to re-grass, mend fences and run my farm at a loss to get it back to a good condition.

The flood water had affected residents of the Iwitea village too, he said.

Septic tanks had been overflowing and people were unable to flush their toilets.

“Iwitea Marae is a civil defence area and it can’t be used.”

Trustee of the Whakaki 2N Incorporated land block at Iwitea Lowen Vercoe was also experiencing the same flooding repercussions.

Mr Vercoe, who was based in Gisborne and visited the area monthly, said the Whakaki Lake Trustees needed to control the body of water because what was happening was “criminal”.

“We are not trying to create a war, we just want to get this sorted.”

The water needed to be let out as the water level marker was reading significantly higher than the maximum, he said.

“It is a disaster zone — we need faster movement and faster action.”

Mr Vercoe said the bacterial count was up and the health of the water was at risk.

“It is a health and safety issue for the village.”

The Whakaki Lake Trust was formed in 1969 to protect and enhance the 1500-acre body of water.

The trust owns and manages the wetland environment, which was the largest of a network of wetlands stretching along the 35 kilometre coast from Nuhaka to Wairoa.

Earlier this year HBRC consulted with the public on a rates increase to tackle several local waterway hotspots.

Its consultation document stated a decline in water quality for Whakaki Lake over recent decades had diminished mahinga kai and other cultural values.

Its goal would be to continue to work with the lake trustees on their goal to restore the lake to a healthy state and improve the habitat for tuna (eels) and bird life.

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