Repairs following Cyclone Gabrielle and other events

In February 2023 our region, like many others across the motu, felt the wrath of Cyclone Gabrielle. The Tararua District declared a state of emergency and received the most widespread damage. However other parts of our region, particularly on the Pohangina and Ōroua rivers, were also severely impacted. Since then there have been a number of smaller flood events that have either caused further damage to the Cyclone Gabrielle sites, or created new damage - such as in Marton, Bulls and Horowhenua. 

Prioritising repairs

Following the event in February, there has been a range of work completed to identify and quantify repairs. This was followed by seeking approvals for funding the work that had been identified. Council confirmed the funding for that work on the 5th of April. This established a work programme, additional to what river management work Horizons had already committed to for the year, totalling over $9 million to be delivered in eight of the thirty four river schemes and for all repairs that were on the list at the time. It was noted to Council at the time that these repairs were likely to take several years to achieve and that funding streams for future events would be reduced. 

We understand that the pace of repairs feels slow for many – and we, like landowners and communities, want to get the work done as soon as possible.

The scale of the damage caused by Cyclone Gabrielle, plus the addition of damage from other floods, means that we need to prioritise the most at risk areas. To date we have over 173 sites that need repairs, below is a table that shows the progress on these. 

Progress on repairs

As part of the prioritisation process, there are key steps to be completed including identifying the work required, securing contractors, establishing costings, getting landowner approvals for their share of the funding, ensuring regulatory permissions are in place and monitoring the work. 

While those steps are relatively straightforward, the volume of the damage caused by Gabrielle has meant that we have only been able to get some of the identified work through to completion to date, with a range of other jobs in progress. Added to that, the flood events that we’ve had in April and May have grown the list and pulled our staff resourcing away from the delivery of these works to respond to the new events. Those events have impacted some of the same locations, plus some new ones around Marton, Bulls and Horowhenua, resulting in flooded houses and causing additional damage.  

This work is also having to be balanced with a range of commitments made prior to the event, including the regular maintenance of schemes and capital upgrade projects that had been committed to within the schemes (often with Government co-funding). However, we’d like to highlight that the damage repairs are being prioritised over that work wherever possible and some of the other planned work has been delayed. We are providing updates directly to affected landowners are frequently as we can. The following table shows the progress on repairs. 

Waiting and considerations for repairs

We appreciate there are many who are keen to get their repairs underway and acknowledge the stress of the events and not having the repairs completed. We are aware some landowners are directly engaging with contractors to get work underway without Horizons’ knowledge or processes having been followed before the work is initiated – please note in these cases we are unable to fund the works via the scheme budgets and if a landowner choses this approach we encourage them to ensure that regulatory processes are being followed.  

We have been to a lot of sites over the last few months, some on multiple occasions, and attended scheme meetings. At these scheme meetings we have heard from landowners that many believe the rivers in their area have been heavily restrained, and that this has contributed to the scale of damage caused. This means that when we go back to sites for repairs, we need to consider putting the river back where it belongs (rather than within a constrained area) and/or widening the space allocated to the river to reduce future damage and costs.   

We are progressing things as quickly as possible and all available staff resourcing is being diverted and dedicated to this area of work. In the meanwhile, for anyone who wants more information about the repairs please direct enquiries via the email address.