The Ophir district is facing "impending disaster" from repeated flooding of farmland and the Otago Regional Council (ORC) needs to "step up" and fund flood protection work, Ophir farmer Sam Leask says.

Mr Leask's property - which had been in the family for 151 years - has been flooded three times in three years as a result of the Manuherikia River breaking its banks and he is thinking of shifting his farming operation.

Last week's flooding resulted in up to 2m of water flowing through his property "like a river", and it would take about a month for the property to recover, Mr Leask said.

The water flooded about 100ha of his 1130ha sheep farm and burst a flood-break he built about eight months ago.


It was the third flood-break he had built. The other two burst during previous flooding, one about three years ago and the other in July last year.

Mr Leask said he had spent about $50,000 on the flood protection work but was uncertain if he would spend any more.

"We're not big enough. We just can't afford to fix it."

He said the Ophir district was facing "impending disaster" from the repeated flooding and he was asking the ORC to "step up" and fund flood protection work.

"I'd like to see someone bite the bullet and do it properly."

Mr Leask said the course of the Manuherikia River had changed as a result of flooding and kept breaking its banks at the same place, upstream of the Omakau bridge, where the river had "ripped out a corner and the angle has become more acute".

When the river broke its banks it went on to a property owned by Russell Coutts, then the water flowed on to his property and went through three more farms, Mr Leask said.

He predicted the changed nature of the river would result in more and worse flooding in the Ophir district.

ORC rules meant private landowners were required to pay for flood protection work on their land, and the ORC would only pay for emergency work, Mr Leask said.

"If this isn't an emergency, I don't know what is."

He wanted the ORC to develop a clearer policy, which provided more funding to flood protection work.

"The ORC should be taking the lead and fixing the problem."

The Otago Daily Times emailed a series of questions to the ORC about the possibility of the council doing more flood protection work in the Ophir-Omakau district, feedback from residents about the recent flooding, post-flood assessment work and what the ORC's responsibilities were.

A response from ORC spokesman Ben Mackey said ORC staff were arranging a survey of flood debris along sections of the Manuherikia River following last week's flood.

"Debris such as silt or sticks left behind by floodwaters provide a valuable record of the extent of the maximum flood flow. This information will be used in conjunction with hydraulic models of river flow to better predict and understand the effects of future flooding.

"Similar surveys will be conducted across other parts of Otago affected by flooding," he said.