42 days of rain and more coming

By Mike Barrington

FLOODING: 42 days of rain has taken its toll on Northland. PHOTO/JOHN STONE
FLOODING: 42 days of rain has taken its toll on Northland. PHOTO/JOHN STONE

Northland local government leaders are asking the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) to provide a state highway network resilient enough to cope with extreme weather like the region has had in the past two months.

It has rained for 42 days in Whangarei since June 1, with 728mm falling on the city in less than two months - the highest total in almost 70 years.

Puhipuhi, north of Whangarei, received a whopping 1076mm over the same period. And the tally will rise with three days left in July and rain forecast today and tomorrow.

Record highs

While the deluge has not reached Biblical proportions, the 459mm of rain at Whangarei so far this month is higher than the 457mm which fell during a torrential storm in July 2007 and the highest on record since 1946, when 496mm was recorded for the month.

Puhipuhi has the highest tally for regional locations since June 1 in Northland Regional Council (NRC) hydrologist Dale Hansen's rain data scorebook, with 429mm last month and 647mm so far this month - totalling more than a metre of rain on 38 days.

Roads under pressure

NRC chairman Bill Shepherd said the toll the heavy rain caused to Northland roads was spelled out when local government leaders discussed regional roads with NZTA officials in Whangarei yesterday.

"We told them how it was not acceptable that during the extreme weather one lane of State Highway 12 at Kaihu was the only link between the Mid and Far North and the rest of New Zealand," Mr Shepherd said. "We want the same standard of roading infrastructure as the NZTA provides for the rest of the country."

About 12 per cent of the Northland roading network is state highways, compared with 20 per cent in the Bay of Plenty and 17 per cent in Waikato.

The NZTA officials had talked about the constraints of funding models, but the Northland leaders - who Mr Shepherd said were "all singing the same song" - insisted Northland needed a better deal, pointing out the region's soils make road construction difficult.

"We told them investment is needed to bring Northland roads up to the standard of the rest of the country," Mr Shepherd said.

Kaikohe had more rain days but less rain with 363mm on 26 days in June, and 582mm on 27 days this month, a total of 945mm on 53 days since June 1.

During the Northland flooding from July 8-12, the average July monthly rainfall total at Kaikohe was around 180mm. In just one week the rainfall recorded there totalled 477mm.

View: Photos of the floodwaters

Mobile users click here for the gallery.

Mr Shepherd said that at one stage of the storm Mangakahia Rd replaced SH1 as the main link between Whangarei and the Far North, but as soon as traffic volumes on it increased the road surface started to crack up.

The NZTA officials had been told regional leaders wanted Mangakahia Rd and Otaika Valley Rd to become a state highway from Kaikohe to the Portland turnoff on SH1 south of Whangarei.

"But we don't want to throw bricks at the Transport Agency. We want to work with them," Mr Shepherd said.

Forecast for this week:

Meanwhile, Whangarei enjoyed a rare day of sunshine with temperatures on 15C yesterday and 6C overnight.

The MetService forecast for today and tomorrow is for rain with temperatures rising to 17-18C in the day and 10C overnight.

Cloudy weather is predicted for the city on Thursday and Friday, with rain returning on Saturday and continuing through until at least Wednesday.

- Northern Advocate

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