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Rangitata River recovery under way

Nic Duff
2019 12 08 Rangitata flood heli HF 038
Rangitata River during the 2019 flood  Supplied

Nearly 18 months after flooding from the Rangitata River damaged infrastructure and farmlands, work has begun to repair and prevent similar damage from happening again. 

The work being done will include the extension of emergency embankments and construction of new stopbanks and gravel groynes.

The repairs will cost $1.3 million, the majority of which will be funded by the Government's Climate Resilience Programme of Flood Risk Management Projects. The work is expected to be completed by the end of August.

In 2019, parts of the Rangitata River were severely damaged by what was described as an extreme weather event. The catchment had six days of heavy rain and three high river flows, peaking at 2307 cubic metres per second - about 35 times more than usual flow.

This intense volume caused severe erosion of the southern banks along the river. Trees planted for erosion control were lost and there were major losses to roading, rail and electricity supply. Flood flows broke out of the river and flowed down the south branch for the first time in 24 years, causing damage to farmlands and equipment.

Environment Canterbury chairperson, Jenny Hughey, says the works are “urgently needed”.

The works are a part of a larger programme supported by climate resilience funding which will see up to $24.2 million spent across the Canterbury region over three years. River manager Leigh Griffiths says in addition to facilitating urgent repairs, the funding offers a wider opportunity to accelerate regeneration of the natural environment.