Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The story behind the Porirua floods

On March 27 2011, Wellington, in particular the working class area Porirua experienced some heavier than normal rainfall. Apparently it was a 1 in a 100 year storm with 40mm of rain falling within an hour.

This particular day I was meant to go to a meeting in Wellington city, I got ready, left home around 12:40pm. It was raining, quite hard but rain like that is somewhat expected at this time of the year. I dropped my flatmate at work and as I was driving past the BP in Porirua, the water level would have been close to the top of my wheels. It was at that point I decided to go home as I didn’t want to drive to Wellington with so much flooding around.

When I got home however I was in for a major shock. In the 25-30mins I was away from my house the water level had gone from nothing to at least waist deep. My parents Toyota Camry, which is normally parked right next to my car was floating in water which was at its door handles.

At the deepest level that I know of, water was approx 1.5metres which was at the front of the car in its final resting spot which was pretty much across the footpath out of the carpark about 1m away from where it was originally parked. This was after the car was pulled in from the middle of the road and a truck strop was used to anchor it to the fence to stop it from floating away again.

About a minute after I got back to the flooding a couple of police cars showed up. There were a couple of local guys near the car, at the drain trying to unblock it with shovel handles. It took a few guys and a truck strop to pull the drain cover off. One Police officer called out to one of the guys if they were ok as they didn’t want to go into the water to help them out. Then the police had a look around and drove off.

I got my daughter out of the car, went up to my house a different way which wasn’t at ground level and went down to the car. The locals from up the road were working hard at clearing the drain. Civil Defence showed up, had a look, took some photos and proceeded to drive away. The Fire Service had heard word of a car floating down Champion Street so decided to come have a look too. They however did not stop at all and just drove straight through the puddle making the car move around knocking it into the wall next to it and putting strain on the fence that the car was stropped too. Eventually the drain was unblocked and the water receded quite fast after this. As the water was receding 4x4s started to drive through the water moving the car around even more.

After the water had fully receded and there was only debris everywhere, Fulton Hogan showed up. Unfortunately they did get a bit of attitude from a couple of people but nothing too horrendous. They drove off as there was nothing left to do, they didn’t even need to put cones around the flooding due to the locals clearing the drains.

The damage to the car from the cars driving through the flood waters were not seen until the car was put on the tow truck. A previously undented, unscratched car now had dents and scratches right down the passenger’s side.

So what caused the blocked drains? I think there were a couple of contributing factors 1. A few months prior, the council had cleared an area in front of my house and the neighbour’s house as it was overgrown and it was council property. The council workers left the clippings in our parking area. These were not cleared away until after the flooding. 2. I don’t have reason to believe the streets and drains in Porirua East are maintained very well. Whether or not that is because it is a low socio-economic area and don’t have the funding or because they would rather use the funding on other things, nothing of which comes to mind, I guess we will never know.

Flooding in low lying areas of Porirua East is a common occurrence. It doesn’t seem to be high on Porirua City Councils list of things to fix.

"Work we had done previously in Raiha St and Te Pene Rd certainly helped, and everything that we saw that day was expected. To get over 35mm in an hour means it was a 50- to 100-year event. Our network is designed for a one-in-five and we're currently upgrading to a one-in-10. It was localised and over very quickly and generally our systems coped well." - Porirua City Council's general manager of asset management and operations Peter Bailey.

If this truly was a 1 in 50 - 100 year event, and the drains were at the level the council wants to believe then our neighbours probably would not have already lost 2 or 3 cars due to flooding of our car park area in the past 9 years or so and most recently my parents car would not have become a victim of the floods. And it’s a great reassurance that the agencies out there that are supposed to help in emergency situations just take photos and don’t actually help those in need… Luckily Porirua has a lot of residents that are willing to help others out rather than sit around and do nothing.

- Lisa Stoneham, SA Wellington

1 comment:

Nick said...

Don't know if you would describe Porirua City as 'working class' any longer. While there are working class areas the city has changed massively over the last few decades and now contains some of the most wealthy suburbs in NZ.