Frustrated Waipukurau Golf Club members want council action to stop their course from becoming a flood plain any time there's substantial rain.

After last week's major deluge, four holes on the back nine — Nos. 13, 14, 15, 16 — were submerged and unplayable with just the greens poking above several feet of water, and two more on the front nine — 6 and 7 — were also non-negotiable.

The women's day competition last Wednesday and the men's a day later were cancelled because the course was unplayable.

Read more: Heavy rain, flooding and thunderstorms hit Hawke's Bay
Golf: Waipukurau club's sick of acting as flood plain for Hawke's Bay Regional Council river


Club greenkeeper Paul McLean said it was the fourth time the course had flooded in nine weeks.

He put it down to a build-up of shingle in the Makaretu River which skirts the boundaries of the back portion of CHB's only 18-hole course.

Mr McLean, who has more than three decades of greenkeeping experience including Napier Golf Club and Napier, Wellington and Porirua city councils, blamed a lack of urgency from Hawke's Bay Regional Council for the disruptions to the course and its effects on members.

"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," Mr McLean said.
"It's been going on for a few years.

"Basically the council have buried their head in the sand," he said.

The council had spent considerable time liaising with Fish & Game and Forest & Bird to impose restrictions.

Mr McLean said after the second flood, hewas 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 ... you don't expect to see any shingle bars but you can still see shingle bars sticking out."

"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 rural areas, McLean said days lost to inclement weather 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," he said. Council staff member Graham Edmondson, in charge of remedial works of rivers, had visited the course to take photos and offer assurance something would be done to rectify the problems.

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

When nothing transpired for a few weeks, Mr McLean eventually contacted the engineer, who believed 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, 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.

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

Mr Haldane said the flooding had put a dampener on Mr McLean's 18-months sprucing up the course to host the annual Hawke's Bay senior men's representative interprovincial championship matches against Wellington in July.

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

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, Mr 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.
Beneficiaries would have to pay for it, although agreement was pending.

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