Whatatutu flood fears

Couple concerned pine plantation could put lives, home at risk

Couple concerned pine plantation could put lives, home at risk

‘UTTERLY RECKLESS’: Whatatutu farmers Peter and Mary Clarke, with Pip the dog, standing near the Te Kowhai Road Bridge with their Whatututu home in the background. The Clarkes fear planned pine forestry planting opposite their house will endanger their lives and home in a serious flooding event and want Gisborne District Council to look into the issue. Picture by Liam Clayton
Flooding from 2010, as seen from Peter and Mary Clarke’s home, with Te Kowhai Road Bridge in the background. Picture supplied
Clarkes Flooding
Clarkes Flooding

WHATUTUTU farmers Peter and Mary Clarke have asked Gisborne District Council to advise and “maybe condemn’’ a planned pine plantation near their home, which they say presents a risk to their lives during serious flooding.

The Clarkes, who live on the other side of Te Kowhai Road Bridge from the township, appeared before the full council and asked for it ‘‘to take ownership”.

They accepted the planting could not not be stopped but asked the council to appoint experts to look into the issue to confirm their fears.

Mr Clarke said the area suffered serious flooding in 2005, 2010 and 2018, and there had been other minor floods.

They were informed in March that PF Olsen intended to plant a pine plantation on about four hectares of land in the “flood plain” opposite their house.

“We have some serious concerns about this plan.”

He showed councillors photographs of some of the previous serious floods.

The bridge was seriously damaged and out of service ‘‘for quite a while’’, and their house had been threatened, said Mr Clarke.

There was debris in many places and much of it was built up among trees.

“I believe if there had been a plantation of forestry trees where they plan to plant we would never have survived the 2010 flood, or probably the 2005 flood either.”

Mr Clarke described the planned planting as ‘‘utterly reckless”.

Landowner Mangatai Forest were asked if they were willing to sell the land. No reply was received but the Clarkes were later informed planting would go ahead.

The council told them the area was not covered by the flood risk overlay and no resource consent was required.

Mr Clarke said the Ministry of Primary Industries and the Ministry of the Environment offered some advice but referred them back to the council as it had responsibility for flood control.

“It appears to us that the current flood protection plans are not working,’’ said Mr Clarke.

“It does not cover all of the flood risk in the region, only pockets of it.

“Places like ours, with a history of flooding for generations, have no flood protection at all.

“We have been told we should be on the plan overlay but this will take a couple of years for the process to be completed.”

Couple want council to ‘take ownership’ of flooding fears issue

The planned plantation would be less than 1 percent of Mangatai Forest’s forestry holdings.

“They are not carrying any risk. The risk is being carried by us and by the council, who are responsible for the bridge.

“There is a risk to life because localised floods, such as what happened last year at Tolaga Bay (June storms), do not always generate heavy rain warnings.’’

Mr Clarke said the planting would slow down floodwaters sufficiently to threaten their house.

Flooding could happen at night and without any warning and at a speed ‘‘which does not give us time to evacuate”.

There was no doubt the Waipaoa River would continue to flood.

They wanted council to take ownership of the problem.

Mr Clarke said they would make submissions to the Government about legislative changes, preferably after a council-appointed expert had looked into the matter.

There needed to be legislative change “so these operators can be held to account”.

The operators had been told the Clarkes would present their case to council.

“It would be very hard to find a worse place to plant a forest,’’ said Mr Clarke. “We need the council to look at this location to see what can be done to protect us.”

The Tairawhiti Resource Management Plan needed to be fixed to give flood risk areas some protection.

Mr Clarke said they had some ideas and would like to meet the council’s planning staff.

WHATUTUTU farmers Peter and Mary Clarke have asked Gisborne District Council to advise and “maybe condemn’’ a planned pine plantation near their home, which they say presents a risk to their lives during serious flooding.

The Clarkes, who live on the other side of Te Kowhai Road Bridge from the township, appeared before the full council and asked for it ‘‘to take ownership”.

They accepted the planting could not not be stopped but asked the council to appoint experts to look into the issue to confirm their fears.

Mr Clarke said the area suffered serious flooding in 2005, 2010 and 2018, and there had been other minor floods.

They were informed in March that PF Olsen intended to plant a pine plantation on about four hectares of land in the “flood plain” opposite their house.

“We have some serious concerns about this plan.”

He showed councillors photographs of some of the previous serious floods.

The bridge was seriously damaged and out of service ‘‘for quite a while’’, and their house had been threatened, said Mr Clarke.

There was debris in many places and much of it was built up among trees.

“I believe if there had been a plantation of forestry trees where they plan to plant we would never have survived the 2010 flood, or probably the 2005 flood either.”

Mr Clarke described the planned planting as ‘‘utterly reckless”.

Landowner Mangatai Forest were asked if they were willing to sell the land. No reply was received but the Clarkes were later informed planting would go ahead.

The council told them the area was not covered by the flood risk overlay and no resource consent was required.

Mr Clarke said the Ministry of Primary Industries and the Ministry of the Environment offered some advice but referred them back to the council as it had responsibility for flood control.

“It appears to us that the current flood protection plans are not working,’’ said Mr Clarke.

“It does not cover all of the flood risk in the region, only pockets of it.

“Places like ours, with a history of flooding for generations, have no flood protection at all.

“We have been told we should be on the plan overlay but this will take a couple of years for the process to be completed.”

Couple want council to ‘take ownership’ of flooding fears issue

The planned plantation would be less than 1 percent of Mangatai Forest’s forestry holdings.

“They are not carrying any risk. The risk is being carried by us and by the council, who are responsible for the bridge.

“There is a risk to life because localised floods, such as what happened last year at Tolaga Bay (June storms), do not always generate heavy rain warnings.’’

Mr Clarke said the planting would slow down floodwaters sufficiently to threaten their house.

Flooding could happen at night and without any warning and at a speed ‘‘which does not give us time to evacuate”.

There was no doubt the Waipaoa River would continue to flood.

They wanted council to take ownership of the problem.

Mr Clarke said they would make submissions to the Government about legislative changes, preferably after a council-appointed expert had looked into the matter.

There needed to be legislative change “so these operators can be held to account”.

The operators had been told the Clarkes would present their case to council.

“It would be very hard to find a worse place to plant a forest,’’ said Mr Clarke. “We need the council to look at this location to see what can be done to protect us.”

The Tairawhiti Resource Management Plan needed to be fixed to give flood risk areas some protection.

Mr Clarke said they had some ideas and would like to meet the council’s planning staff.

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