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Seeking solutions to Awapuni flood flow

OWNERS of the Te Awapuni Moana block are getting other people’s excess water unfairly and it is harming their farming operation, Gisborne District Council’s environmental planning and regulations committee was told.

Representatives explained the reasons for the problem and the solutions they proposed to the committee.

Block chairman Terry Te Kani said the land was returned to the owners in the mid 1990s and had high cultural significance. What was once a lagoon was now farm land.

At the time of Captain Cook, two hapu were living and fishing there. They were Rongowhakaata and one of their more illustrious ancestors was Te Kooti. The owners wanted to work together hand-in-hand with the council to find a solution.

A rare puhoro tattoo on his leg partly told the story of this area.

Spokesman Chris Torrie said this discussion had been going on for 10 years. The owners maintained they were receiving other people’s water unfairly through structural changes in the catchment area.

The water was getting to them fast but there had been no changes to the outlet system to get that water off their property.

“We are significantly hampered in the amount of farming we can do on this land and it is probably one of the most fertile blocks of land in the district.”

They had many discussions and were mostly stonewalled.

“We are not here looking for handouts, what we are looking for is a solution where we can all share the problem, not just ourselves but with the whole catchment, because we believe it is a catchment problem,” he said.

Consultant Ian Howatson said a catchment of 1300 hectares fed into the lagoon. There were two outlet culverts into the Waipaoa River that flowed for eight hours a day.

When the tide came in, the culverts shut, and water built up in the drain and overflowed onto the farm land.

The system was installed in 1950 and nothing had happened since then. In a reasonable rain event of 50mm, water flooded the farm land.

One of the things they proposed was to run an embankment from the centre drain across to the Paokahu Landfill.

That would stop water flowing out of the drain. They were planning a low level embankment that would stop water flowing into the lowest-lying land, which was 329 hectares. That would be modelled by the Hawkes Bay Regional Council.

They would also instal pumps to deal with the rainfall.

Farm supervisor Peter McKenzie said Arai Matawai had 27,000 stock units, was integrated with two hill country blocks and came down to the Poverty Bay Flats. Their prime aim was to fatten lambs and winter hoggets for the Ovation Plant, at which a lot of Rongowhakaata people worked.

Awapuni had 5000 head of stock. If they had to destock because of flooding and go on the store market, they lost $30 per lamb.

Mr Torrie said they had been told by council staff there was no funding for this.

They thought the capital cost would be about $100,000 and there would also be maintenance costs.

Committee chairwoman Pat Seymour said there had been discussions with staff and councillors. The process now was that the council would put a complete review of the Te Awapuni Moana drainage scheme into the 10-year long-term plan.