Six months ago the Bay of Plenty town of Matata was hit by more than 300mm of rain in 24 hours, creating raging torrents of water, boulders and logs.

The "debris flows" wiped out houses, roads and a wildlife reserve, and littered the town with silt and natural and manmade debris - much of which is still to be cleaned up.

The latest report on the May 18 disaster says the community will never be the same.

The report says it is likely to take two years to complete the projects needed to get Matata back on its feet.

The author, Whakatane District Council recovery manager Diane Turner, says Matata's future depends on Government help.

"There are no solutions that can be afforded by the Matata community on their own," she writes.

The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management has asked for more information from the council before it decides on funding.

Mrs Turner told the Herald that Matata was changed unalterably.

"There can be no expectation that it can be the same as it was before."

The disaster had left the need for vast structural repairs, cleanup, and measures to prevent a repeat disaster.

Cost estimates for mitigation works had increased after new data showed the volumes of debris that pummelled the town were much greater than at first thought, Mrs Turner said.

There were also implications for future development, in that some areas once slated for building might no longer be safe.

A wildlife refuge with two lagoons bordering the beach was severely damaged, but Mrs Turner said the council had been forced to focus on people and damaged properties.

Many residents feel they face uncertain futures.

"The people of Matata are at the end of their tether," one woman wrote in a letter to the Whakatane Beacon newspaper last week.

"So little information has been forthcoming, so many questions remain unanswered and too little action has occurred."

Some of those whose homes were destroyed remain in temporary accommodation.

Marilyn Pearce, whose beachfront home was destroyed, said the wait was demoralising.

"We're no further ahead than we were six months ago."


Debris filled 60 per cent of the two main lagoons in the reserve with silt, boulders, logs and household items, including cars. The Department of Conservation estimated the cost of restoring the west lagoon at $800,000.

It said it was unable to pay the money or provide $170,000 it had been asked to contribute to restoring the east lagoon.

The council says the lagoons are DoC's responsibility.

Residents concerned the reserve has become a toxic quagmire filled with chemicals from household junk have formed an action group to lobby the authorities to pay for a clean-up.


The debris flows that damaged Matata on May 18 came down the Awatarariki and Waitepuru streams, at the western and eastern ends of the town, respectively.

The Whakatane District Council has identified preferred options for repair and mitigation work on the streams.

The Government has indicated it may provide one-third of the funding for the options, which include:

* Awatarariki - building a 17m-high debris dam, a debris flood channel, and a double-span railway bridge (latest cost estimate: $5.6 millon).

* Waitepuru - building 5m-high debris bunds (latest cost estimate: $980,000).

* The estimated cost of all repair and mitigation work is $9.2 million (council's preferred option).

* The potential increase to rates is $1.7 million, or $4927 each for 344 property-owners at Matata ($3284 with one-third Government assistance).