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New Year Trip: 7~A 50-year flood

New Years Day started tentatively – but blessedly there was no headache to greet me. A fortunate thing, as it was time to move on again. We packed up and farewelled our hosts. As usual it had been a great visit and I’d be seeing them again in February thanks to a plan hatched the night before.

First order of business was coffee and food. We went back to where we found coffee yesterday and joy of joys, it was open.

That taken care of, the TomTom was set for Whakatane.

The drive started off well. It was a fine day with not too much traffic. Heading over the Bombay Hills I got stuck behind a car in the fast lane going a few k’s slower than ideal. Eventually they pulled into the left hand lane and, with my turn off coming up, I decided to put my foot down a little to jump ahead of the queue rather than follow and continue behind my slow friend. Then rounding a bend I saw with mild horror a police car off to the side. Uttering a stream of curses, I instantly backed off and braked feeling sure my time was up after a number of close calls in recent years. With frequent glances in the rear view mirror I was surprised there was no immediate pursuit. Could I be so lucky???


By the time I got to the turn off the police car was underway, lights a-twinkling. Resigned to my fate, I soon came upon a side road which I pulled into and waited, license in hand. The officer was reasonable and I inwardly gave thanks to the wee time delay before his radar locked on, which resulted in a lower reading and ultimately lessened my fine.

We continued on, perhaps a touch more conservatively than before. Travelling through patches of the heavy rain that had been causing havoc in a few areas, we reached the Bay of Plenty from where we’d continue down the east coast. A random stop was made at a beach access spot along the stretch of road where it hugs the coastline.

Nice stretch of east coast beach, apart from the blue bottles

Whakatane wasn’t far off by this stage. It had stopped raining and had the appearance of a not-too-bad sort of day. But in previous days the area had been dumped on by massive amounts of rain and in some places, flooding and other issues had cut people off and caused roads to be closed.

As we entered the town we came upon huge queues of cars trying to head the opposite way. Thousands of people who had attended the annual New Year music festival over in Gisborne had unfortunately timed their journey home with road closures and it was chaos. But not for us, and we zipped past them as per TomTom’s instructions and found our motel.

The main township is located beside the Whakatane River, near where it opens out into the sea. We noticed the river looked high, really high, and along the riverbank could see where some walkways had been submerged. Near our motel a couple of roads had been blocked off. We checked in then headed out on foot to see what the situation was.

The flood had peaked by this stage and was starting to drop back. It was clear the river had risen above its banks in places and flooded some of the town. Later on when the measurements were in, it rated as a little larger than a one-in-50-year flood. The problem being that this kind of flood happens more frequently than that label suggests.

Mike in a big puddle

My main concern was for the following day. Our reason for stopping off in Whakatane was to do a tour to the volcanic White Island. Although the rain had stopped, water was still flowing into and inundating the river, and bringing with it it huge amounts of debris. The tour boats leave from the river and the trees and logs were a real hazard and so no tours had run for the previous couple of days.

The tour boats went nowhere today - would they tomorrow?

Half a day or so before, doubt we would've been standing here

The saying 'weather for ducks' springs to mind

Just along from our motel the road was flooded

While it was really interesting to see the flood, our tour the next day, which I’d been looking forward to for months, was in doubt. We would find out in the morning.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Marnie #

    Glug – poor Whakatane…Opotiki was much the same I gather. But being self-contained in our wee spot on a hill, we were oblivious to the flooding and just carried on our merry lifestyle!

    22 January 2012

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