Sinking putts is the name of the game but not even Waipukurau Golf Club could possibly have braced itself for the past nine weeks, before it culminated into a mother of all deluges this week.

Club greenkeeper Paul McLean said it was their fourth flooding in nine weeks after the weather bomb punctuated the Hawke's Bay mood this week.

"When I started 18 months ago you could walk off the back of the course and go and look down at the river.

"Now you go and look up at it. The river's getting higher than we are," McLean said, putting it down to a build up of shingle in the Makaretu River which skirts the boundaries of the back portion of Central Hawke's Bay's only 18-hole course.


The 52-year-old from Napier, who has more than three decades of greenkeeping experience including stints with the Napier Golf Club and Napier, Wellington and Porirua city councils, blames the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's lack of urgency for the disruptions to the course and its members.

"It's been going on for a few years. Basically the council have buried their head in the sand," he said, adding it had spent considerable time liaising with the Fish and Game and Forest and Bird organisations to impose myriad restrictions.

McLean said after the second flood, he became incensed because he had put his heart and soul into the course.

"I told them I'm sick and tired of acting as a flood plain for your river," he said. "When the water is coming down the river in great volumes, like it is now, you don't expect to see any shingle bars but you can still see shingle bars sticking out."

The women's day competition on Wednesday and the men's a day later were cancelled because the course was deemed unplayable this week.

Four holes on the back nine - 13, 14, 15, 16 - were submerged and fit for migrating ducks in transit even though the odd green was visible for some hearty souls to attempt magical approach shots.

Two holes on the front nine - 6 and 7 - also were non-negotiable.

"It's depressing and just soul destroying and so disheartening when you're trying to prepare the course for tournaments or prospective or current members - you end up losing everything."


At a time when all clubs are struggling to stay afloat in the rural area, McLean said days lost to inclement weather certainly didn't help their cause.

"We've got limited income, limited funds, limited budgets to run on the sniff of an oily rag ... so I rang the regional council," said McLean, revealing council staff member Graham Edmondson, in charge of remedial works of rivers, had visited the course to take some photos and offer assurance something would be done to rectify the problems.

However, he had then received an email from Edmondson informing him the matter had been referred to an engineer who had recently joined the council stable from England.

When nothing transpired for a few weeks, McLean eventually contacted the engineer who was of the belief the work had been done while he was away.

"He said he was going to come around and have a look and go back to draw up some plans to organise some surveyors and blah, blah, blah, blah and we heard nothing and that was four weeks ago."

McLean said the club was not a farm which had contingency plans to adhere to every time flooding occurred.

"We can't move greens and tees like a farmer can move stock.

"I can't move golfers like farmers move livestock to high ground."

As council ratepayers, he said, the club got nothing in return from the regional authority.

A green looks approachable at Waipukurau Golf Club but is anyone game to clear the surrounding water hazard for a safe landing? Photo/Cinton Llewellyn
A green looks approachable at Waipukurau Golf Club but is anyone game to clear the surrounding water hazard for a safe landing? Photo/Cinton Llewellyn

Course convener and club vice-president Richard Haldane echoed McLean's sentiments, saying the problem lies with the regional council and the urgency required to extract gravel from the river.

Haldane said the flooding had put a damper on McLean's 18-month stint to spruce up the course to host the annual Hawke's Bay senior men's representative interprovincial championship matches against Wellington in July.

Nearby landowners, he said, were holding talks with the regional council to consider options, in accordance with the Resource Management Act, to clear the shingle from the river.

Council regional assets manager Gary Clode confirmed an engineer had been to the course and was looking at potential solutions before discussing options with the club. However, Clode said any work done would have to take into account implications to other areas.

While the council sympathised with the club, he said, there was no straightforward solution.

"The golf course has no flood protection scheme, that is, stop banks to safeguard it from high flows.

"While the council has a duty to prevent damage by flood and to manage land in such a manner that flood damage is minimised, there is also a requirement to manage the costs of such work which is entirely ratepayer-funded."

Clode said until agreement was reached on funding, there was little the council could do other than to provide advice.

Commercial operators, he said, extracted gravel at no cost to the scheme ratepayers but, due to the location and transport costs, there was no demand in that part of the catchment now.

"An option for the future is when the regional council global consent to extract gravel will be an arrangement requiring extractors to uptake from the rivers with excess gravel but this doesn't exist currently.

"The only other option is to remove the gravel, at cost, and dump to waste," he said, adding beneficiaries would have to pay for it although agreement was pending.

The build up of gravel, Clode said, was a natural process of sediments coming from the ranges.