Residents blame branch cuttings for floods

By Sonya Bateson

Ngongotaha residents say willow branches cut and left to sit on the banks of a stream blocked the waterway and contributed to flooding at the weekend.

Heavy rain struck Rotorua on Saturday and Sunday, with water levels reaching up to 2m in some areas.

Ngongotaha was particularly affected as the stream running through the town spilled over, taking branches that had recently been trimmed from willow trees that lined its banks.

A concerned resident from Brookdale Drive, who did not want her name published, said Rotorua District Council business unit Castlecorp should have been mulching the loose branches as they were being cut down.

"Instead of cutting [the branches] and mulching them and getting rid of them, they were left on the side of the stream, so when it flooded, there were thousands of branches blocking the stream.

"If [the branches] had been taken away as they went, it wouldn't have happened."

The woman said the Western Rd area had suffered worse than her street, with sewage coming up into the streets and manhole covers being lifted up, including one in the street in front of her home.

She said a neighbour had called the council voicing concerns about the branches, but had been told that work was the responsibility of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

Another resident said the cutting back of the willow trees was something that needed to be done, but the workers should have been clearing as they went - although she pointed out she did not think it was the workers' fault but the people giving the instructions.

She said the branches had gathered into dams along the stream, preventing the water from flowing through easily.

Castlecorp general manager Mike Davies said he had not heard any reports of branches cut by their employees blocking any of the waterways in Ngongotaha.

"Castlecorp staff have been removing branches blocking the waterways.

"We had a truck there on Saturday mulching the stuff up as well. I don't know of any reports of branches going down the stream and causing flooding.

"It would be us who had to clear the blockage if it has happened."

Mr Davies said Castlecorp did not leave branches in waterways but they also could not govern how much rain would fall.

Castlecorp would be cleaning up after the flood and checking for blockages.

Mr Davies said there had also been flooding way back into Paradise Valley, before it even got to Ngongotaha. He said he did not know how much rain there had been and how much it had contributed to the area's flooding.

MetService is predicting a week full of fine spells, showers and light winds.

This kind of weather is expected to last until Sunday, when the rain is predicted to return.

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- NZ Herald

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