Hawkes Bay Floods

Storm events demand our urgent attention

One and a half years have passed since one of Napier’s most significant flood events in decades. Yet in recent days we have seen more torrential rain, raging rivers and monstrous seas pounding our coast. Mother nature is trying to tell us something! Climate change is no longer an ethereal spectre for some future generation to deal with. Climate change is now! An early morning mid-storm tour of Napier revealed our flood management system coping well. Dedicated and hard working regional and city council staff were well prepared this time.

Teams worked all night to ensure properties stayed dry. These people deserve our grateful thanks for defending a system designed to protect the city from the now annual one in ten-year storm events. Even with greater vigilance and better operation of existing storm water assets, the day will come again soon when this severely lacking storm protection will be over-run. Property losses on a massive scale are inevitable. City and regional councillors are focusing on solutions. Many millions are planned to be spent on mitigation strategies to protect our communities. Stop banks are being raised. Storm water system improvements are planned over the next 30 years.

Implementation of the Clifton to Tangoio coastal hazards strategy is about to be signed off. Over the past decade, protecting coastal properties has taken priority for politicians and public servants alike. Ratepayers across the region will soon face a substantial increase to fund the $15million cost of sea wall and groin protection. Many years and millions of dollars have been spent so far on developing the strategy.

Flooding Napier

Plans for the southern Clifton, Te Awanga zone include dumping 120,000 cubic metres of rock into the sea. That’s about 30,000 truck loads trundling along our roads. The carbon footprint alone is a worry let alone the effects on the marine environment. And the outcome for all this effort and expense? A recent Hawke’s Bay Today image captured the enormous power of the sea. Trying to tame its fury is folly. Yet here we are as a community, on the cusp of attempting to do just that. The sea will win! Ratepayers will foot the bill.

In 20 years, another generation of ratepayers will pick up the tab for the inevitable retreat from its relentless surge. There needs to be a reality check on what coastal assets should be protected and those a managed exit is the most sustainable solution. Meanwhile, Napier communities, involving several thousand properties, face clear and present danger from storm events occurring with monotonous regularity. Protecting their properties is a long way off.

Perhaps the council can issue gumboots to suburban householders, at the same time as rate demands are sent out to fund the protection of coastal properties! Ratepayers have a right to expect equitable decision making, based on highest and urgent need. The loud and singularly focused coastal voices have high jacked the conversation, political patronage and now ratepayer dollars. Napier residents exposed to devastating flooding deserve much better than to expect something to happen within the next 30 years. Action is needed urgently now! 


A year has passed since one of Napier’s most significant flood events in decades. The Napier City Council and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council are jointly responsible for managing the City’s flood protection infrastructure. Napier residents, badly affected by the flooding, are entitled to an explanation for the performance of the overwhelmed flood protection network. Both councils sadly, have been unable to front up with the facts. Instead the fiction that Napier’s stormwater protection “worked as it was designed to”, is the chosen substitute for accountability. The reality is that the system did not perform to its capacity.

When considering the performance of each individual element of the stormwater network over the 24 hour period 9 November 2020, we see a pattern of operational inefficiency, poor maintenance and a lack of reasonable planning. My estimate is that the system actually performed around 20 percent below its available capacity on the day, producing an extra 100mm of avoidable flooding. At a rough guess, this caused at least $20 million of damage to property, aside from the long term disruption to the lives of hundreds of people. I agree that the stormwater system is likely to have been overwhelmed. However extensive damage to dozens of properties would have been avoided if the system had been operating to its actual available capacity.

Flooding Napier

The other controllable factor was via civil defence officials allowing vehicles into the flood zone, causing bow wave flooding. This was a huge mistake. The most alarming feature of my analysis is the near catastrophic risk to the city’s wastewater pumping system. It was bad enough having raw sewage pumped into the estuary for 77 hours. But the system was exposed to the very real potential of shutdown for weeks. In subsequent joint council meetings, a muddled picture remains.

The intention of both councils is for major capital spending. However, we are not quite sure where or when. There is no sense that the spending will actually solve the problem or whether it will simply provide a band aid for the current inadequate flood protection. On top of the uncertainty with current infrastructure is the prospect of major housing development right in the middle of the most critical parts of the flood detention zone. The three waters political meandering complicates the picture even further. All the ingredients remain for disaster and our councils remain indolent in responding to the clear and present danger.

We must get on and increase flood protection capacity in preparation for the next big storm event, due any time soon. View analysis – click here



Ecosystems are under threat. Biodiversity is rapidly declining; animal and plant species are facing extinction around the world. Biodiversity is critical for the essential services provided, including pollination, carbon storage, filtration of water, nutrient cycling, soil formations, erosion control and sediment retention.

Biodiversity decline is the result of a range of causes, including the direct effects of vegetation clearance, uncontrolled grazing of animals, introduced pest plant and animals, the exploitation of some species, climate change and pollution. We have a duty of care for the environment, ourselves and future generations to leave the natural environment in a state that will continue to sustain the future. We must ensure that the unique animals, plants, fungi and microbes that are found in our country are healthy and thriving.

Climate Change

Climate Change

A changing climate will alter the environment and threaten our lifestyle and economy. Worldwide, sea level rise will affect low-lying coastal areas. As climate patterns shift for Hawke’s Bay, there may be some positives, such as fewer frost days and a longer growing season. In Hawke’s Bay, warmer temperatures, less rain overall and more severe extreme weather events (e.g.drought, storms) will lead to prolonged dry conditions, more heat stress and soil erosion, a greater risk of wildfire, more frequent/extreme flooding, and new plant and animal pests.

We have a duty of care to make sure that adverse social, economic, cultural and environmental impacts of climate change are reduced to more acceptable levels. This will demand an ambitious co-ordinated programme of activities touching everyone.

Protecting Our Communities

Protecting Our Communities

The scale and frequency of climate-related events that damage or destroy the natural and built environment will increase as a result of climate change. Other natural hazards that are not climate-dependent may be equally or more devastating, including from floods, earthquakes, tsunami, liquefaction, land slippage, volcanic eruption, human pandemic and invasive animal or plant pests.

By identifying and assessing the features of those risks facing communities, the communities can consider how they can respond and therefore whether or not it is a risk that can be tolerated.

Hawkes Bay Water

Demand For Water

Much of Hawke’s Bay is prone to drought, and the demand for water exceeds the supply, particularly on the Heretaunga and Ruataniwha Plains. Extremes of extended droughts and higher temperatures, together with more frequent intense rainfall events are predicted to results from climate change.

Over the longer term, the overall water supply and demand balance may significantly be impacted.Water is a finite resource and essential to all life forms. It is vital for human health, and, as a region renown for its abundant food production, it is vital for the economy and economic wellbeing of residents.