This summer the Chronicle is bringing you another look at some of the best content of 2019. This story originally ran on June 21, 2019
On this day in 2015, Whanganui began the huge task of picking up the pieces left by the district's worst flood on record. Four years on, Abe Leach asks if the job is finally complete.
On June 20–21, 2015, a month's worth of rain fell in 24 hours, causing surface flooding and landslides in Whanganui's lower, middle and upper catchments.
Around midnight, the weather took its toll, and the Whanganui River breached its banks.
About 400 residents, mostly in Putiki, Aramoho and Whanganui East, had to be evacuated.
It was deemed a one-in-100-year flood and a 2016 report found the Anzac Parade stopbanks, which were designed to hold a 30-year flood, were overtopped by 350mm to 500mm of water.
Four years on, reminders of the damage can still be found throughout the district. The most visible, and perhaps the only remaining, repair job left in the city is the slip on Anzac Parade near the city bridge.
"Which four years on now seems pretty slow," Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall said.
"I know it's a massive piece of work but it is frustrating for all the Durie Hill and Whanganui East residents having to use the narrowed carriageway.
"We just keep hammering away at NZTA to get it done."
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Activity at the site appears to have stopped, but a NZ Transport Agency spokesperson said work was progressing behind the scenes.
In April, NZTA said repairs were due to be finished in September this year.
Whanganui District Council emergency manager Tim Crowe said the 2015 flood caused thousands of slips throughout the district, which were still affecting some properties.
"The vast majority of Whanganui has recovered, but there are still a few people with landslides and land stability issues. There's not many, but they're there," he said.
And then there's the emotional trauma.
"Floods are incredibly traumatic," Crowe said.
"Some of my friends were really affected and just the risk of another flood is psychologically frightening for them.
"What we know is that it is going to flood again and we are going to have more events, but it's those little bits of preparedness that helps us be more resilient."
McDouall said at the time the flood was considered to be the country's second worst natural event of the century.
"Since then, New Zealand's had three or four other pretty significant events, but for Whanganui's history it really is right up there in terms of a natural disaster," he said.
"I was in Raine St, which was cut off, but it really did bring our community in Whanganui East much closer, just the awareness of who are your neighbours and how to look after them.
"That's what we've got to hold on to because the next major civil defence emergency might not come from the river, so we just have to keep up those connections."
After the 2015 flood, a new weather monitoring system was installed to provide better information about how water is being soaked up and how likely landslides are.
McDouall said Whanganui was at the top of the ladder terms of preparation for flood events after taking on lessons learned in 2015.
"The community as a whole is prepared and I think civil defence is well prepared and well-functioning," he said.
"Now it's about individuals going through emergency plans, and if a flood is pending, making sure people are ready to evacuate."