The water’s edge, where the road should be. Pictured is Arthur Blake in Wairoa as the rain started to ease and the flooding of the Wairoa River started to recede. Photo / Paul Taylor
If anyone really wanted to know what was happening with the Wairoa River as it threatened to flood Wairoa and the eastern reaches towards the river’s mouth on Sunday, they could have asked Arthur Blake.
He’s been in the area more than 60 years and has seen the river rise and fall often, but given the nature of the beast, it was scarier than most in 2023. The greatest threat came as it continued to rise when it should have been going down, after high tide.
High tide was at 5.04am, and the river mouth was blocked by the bar. At one stage after the new day dawned, there were concerns some people could soon become trapped in the low-lying areas of Ngamotu Rd and Kopu Rd, off State Highway 2 at the foot of Te Uhi Hill.
Blake said later no one had been evacuated that he was aware of, but police were in the area early, knocking on doors to wake families and alert them to the situation.
“It came just about up to the road,” he said. “The [river] bar was holding it back – we didn’t have a mouth. It broke about 6:30am, and when it opened, it went.” By early afternoon the river had “gone down”, he said.
But such are the times, with more than 2100 millimetres of rain recorded in Wairoa this year – double the annual average, and with Cyclone Gabrielle in February and more flooding less than three weeks ago the stand-outs in a year of climatic assaults on the region, Blake could be forgiven a little more forecasting.
“There’ll be another one in a couple of weeks,” he said.