5 Apr 2017

Whanganui evacuations: 'I didn't want to see him get hammered'

10:31 pm on 5 April 2017

The Whanganui District Council says the evacuation of 200 homes in flood-prone areas has gone well this afternoon.

The evacuations began just after midday today in low-lying areas of Anzac Parade and Putiki, and were to be completed by 4pm.

The Whanganui River was no longer expected to spill over its stopbanks.

Anzac Parade was closed and cordoned off, with volunteers and Civil Defence staff patrolling the boundary.

Whanganui farmer John Churton helped to clear out the Kowhai Park Dairy, which he used to own.

"I had it last time it went in flood, and I got out.

"Then there's the new fellow come in and I didn't want to see him get hammered like I got hammered. So I've come down to help him.

"This morning I helped shift another house along the road. Then I came in here about 7am ... and was shifting this.

"I don't know why we're doing it, we're only saving the insurance a lot of money, that's all."

Former owner of the Kowhai Park Dairy John Churton has been helping clear out the business for its new owner.

The Kowhai Park Dairy's former owner, John Churton, helped its new owner prepare for the risk of flooding. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall said, if the modelling was correct, the Whanganui River should not spill over its stopbanks, but he was not relaxing yet.

The Whanganui River was forecast to reach 12.6m at Pipiriki at 2am and a peak of 8.6m at the City Bridge at 8.15am.

Mr McDouall told Checkpoint with John Campbell that should mean the city would avoid the worst.

He said the evaucations had gone well and the city's community spirit was amazing.

All schools in the district were expected to reopen tomorrow, except Whanganui Girls College, which was being used as a civil defence centre.

The council declared a local state of emergency yesterday.

The business area alongside the Whanganui River, including Taupo Quay, closed. Sandbags were piled up in front of the doors and security personnel were patrolling cordons.

Mr McDouall said, based on the regional council's modelling, evacuating the low-lying areas of Anzac Parade and Putiki was the safest approach. Those areas were worst-affected by the big 2015 flood, he said.

Council staff deployed flood defence barriers on several parts of the Whanganui River. Nearby Whangaehu and Turakina remained on alert.

Staff activated the flood control gates at Moutoa on the Manawatu River.

Rangitikei 'dodged a bullet'

Rangitikei Mayor Andy Watson said 50 people were evacuated from the town of Marton, but the worst did not eventuate.

It had braced for a one-in-200-year flood.

Marton was considered to be at low risk, with the focus on the Whangaehu and Turakina river catchments.

"The Tutaenui stream didn't broach its banks, thankfully, so I think we dodged a bit of a bullet there," he said.

All schools in Whanganui and Rangitikei were closed when the local states of emergency were declared yesterday. Schools in Rangitikei were expected to be open tomorrow.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs