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Flooding a wake-up call to region

Greater Wellington is the promotional name of the Wellington Regional Council
News release

5 March 2004

Flooding a wake-up call to region

The heavy rainfall and flooding of 11-19 February should act as a wake-up call to Wellington region residents and businesses, says Greater Wellington Regional Council.

The Wellington region was twice isolated from outside support and various parts of the region were also cut off from others (Eastbourne, Kapiti, Upper Hutt, Wainuiomata and Wairarapa).

“These events were a wake-up call to get prepared to look after ourselves during an emergency. Everyone needs to have emergency plans and supplies to cope wherever we are when a disaster happens,” says Greater Wellington chairperson Margaret Shields.

Many businesses did not open on the worst day of the storm due to staff not being available, access roads being shut, or in about 20 offices, physical damage to the business premises.

“If the emergency had continued this would be a serious situation for many small and large businesses. Businesses need to have business continuity plans and insurance,” Cr Shields says.

Despite some land and property damage, Flood Protection Manager Geoff Dick says generally the flood protection defences worked well.

“In Wainuiomata, where the river had a 30-year flood, there was damage in the upper tributaries and stormwater flooding. However, the 1990 stopbank worked and the river-side willows held the ground.”

He says there were more severe problems resulting from the 50-year flood on the Waiwhetu Stream, Lower Hutt, combined with stormwater flooding.

“We have identified some opportunities for further investigations and we will be looking at computer modelling water flow in this area. We know where the water went in a 50-year flood and the model should show us what might happen in a larger flood. I’m hopeful that it won’t cost too much to make some improvements,” Geoff says.

The emergency management response was also effective, with staff who were unable to get to their normal place of work assisting in the areas where they live, says Regional Emergency Manager Rian van Schalkwyk.

However, he says that recovery after an emergency takes a long time. Restoring roads, bridges, stopbanks etc. requires specialist expertise. “New Zealand is a small country and resources are scarce, especially when other parts of the country are affected. This extends the time it takes to restore normality,” Rian says.

Emergency managers recommend everyone has the following supplies
- Food - Canned or dried, enough for three days
- Water - at least 9 litres per person in your household - that is a minimum 3 days’ supply (or more for food preparation and washing)
- Radio and spare batteries
- Alternate lighting e.g. a torch and spare batteries
- First aid kit
- Toilet paper and plastic bags for an emergency toilet
- Essential medications
- Baby or pet supplies
- Personal hygiene Items - like toothbrush, soap, sanitary pads etc

Make sure you know where to find these:
- Primus or BBQ to cook on
- Emergency clothing - something windproof and rainproof (like a jacket and trousers) as well as sturdy shoes
- Important family documents


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