In the 1820s, Waitara became the first port in Taranaki and the town started to develop around it.
Design standards, historically, were very different from today but even then the Waitara Borough allowed the town to grow in an ad-hoc manner, developing in low-lying flood-prone areas and without investing in the back-bone of a stormwater system.
A history of flooding in Waitara
There are records of big flood events in Waitara since the late 1800’s to date. After the major floods experienced in the 1960s and 1970s, the first river stopbanks were constructed and the frequency and intensity of the floods was reduced (the stopbanks were upgraded in 2013-2016 to increase the risk protection to a one in 100 year rainfall event). Thanks to this, high river levels don’t affect the township as they used to do. However, stormwater runoff from the Waitara catchment accumulates during heavy rainstorms in the low-laying township, and it ponds against the stopbank, not being able to get to its outlet while the river is in flood.
There are historical records of significant flooding in Waitara, at least in 1883, 1891, 1893, 1904, 1907, 1909, 1925, 1935, 1947, 1965, 1971 and 2015.
Waitara is built on low-lying swampy land, largely at sea level, and has Taranaki’s largest river running through it. These geographic features mean that the potential effects of climate change, including sea level rise and increased frequency and intensity of rainfall, could lead to worsening flooding and stormwater issues for Waitara.
This is not an issue specific to Waitara, but widespread across the district and New Zealand.
“Councils do not typically invest as much in their stormwater systems as they do in their water supply and wastewater networks, with limited exceptions. Urban stormwater systems are often referred to as the "poor cousin" of the three waters (drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater).”*
*Managing stormwater systems to reduce flooding, Auditor-General 2018.
NPDC is flipping the script by investing $248m to Fix the Plumbing across our district – including our stormwater systems – in the next 10 years. $20m of that is going into improving Waitara’s stormwater system.
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Page last updated: 12:46AM Mon 19 September 2022