Horizons Regional Council is reminding rural communities to keep grazing stock off stopbanks during winter.
The reminder applies to farmers and owners of lifestyle blocks as wetter soil conditions combined with heavy animals, or smaller animals that dig, can weaken the region's stopbanks.
Horizons area engineer Cliff Thomas said the main purpose of stopbanks was to provide essential flood protection for thousands of people throughout the region. While stopbanks could be grazed by cattle less than 18 months old in summer when the ground was firm, grazing cattle were not permitted between June 1 and September 30 unless approval was given by river management staff.
"As wet weather has set in we have seen a number of stock on banks that have caused minor damage," Thomas said.
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"When conditions are favourable these will be repaired; however, it is a statutory offence to damage the stopbanks and landowners can be held liable to pay for any resulting repairs.
"We are fortunate that the rain events so far have not put pressure on our major banks, but many of our smaller rivers have experienced high flows and the banks are now in a saturated state.
"The stopbanks require careful management and it is very important that there is enough grass to prevent scouring in a flood event. Stock damage can increase the potential for this to happen."
Thomas said he appreciated the effort farmers put in to control stock damage caused by grazing through the year, but said stock needed to be grazed elsewhere to avoid any damage.
"The stopbanks not only protect property and production worth billions of dollars, but they also ensure the safety of many in our community. All it takes is one breached section of stopbank to flood hundreds of hectares of farmland, and potentially impact homes and people's lives."
• A copy of the stopbank grazing guidelines pamphlet is available online at www.horizons.govt.nz/publications-feedback/publications/keeping-people-safe with hard copies available on request.