Walking tracks and boundary fences at a popular Canterbury nature reserve will need extensive repairs after they were hammered by up to half a year’s worth of rain in a single storm.
Banks Peninsula was battered by extreme rainfall last week in what authorities initially said they expected to be Canterbury’s biggest rain event “for several decades”.
The downpour flooded houses and knocked out power in the peninsula’s eastern bays, and triggered extensive slips which wiped away local roads.
Biologist Hugh Wilson has managed Hinewai Reserve, a 1250-hectare nature reserve restored from gorse-speckled farmland, for the past 35 years.
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The recent storm damage was the worst the 76-year-old kaitiaki, or guardian, had ever seen.
“I’ve never, ever seen so many slips all at once … [the areas around] entire streams are gone, right down to the sea.”
Hinewai’s green hillsides are now pitted with brown scars, he said, and it had affected the reserve’s popular walking tracks too.
“This time [the rain] just completely went to town. We’ve lost about 20 footbridges, and some of our boundary fences have been damaged.”
Each bridge was about three or four days’ work to rebuild, he said, once supplies had been brought in.
But Wilson was philosophical about the damage.
“It’s all nature, and it’s happened before – just not to this extent.
“Nature will handle it, it just looks very ugly for a while. Eventually, though, new plants will grow and a new ecosystem will spring up.”
Hinewai’s headlands usually get around 640 millimetres of rain a year, he said, while the top of the valley got up to 1.85 metres.
During last week’s storm, around 275mm fell in just a few days.
“It’s quite drastic, but it was so localised it feels like no one [elsewhere] noticed,” Wilson said.
“As you go over the head of our valley, it just stops. Akaroa was unaffected, but from Little Akaloa to Pōhatu it was pretty uniform – and we’re right in the middle of that.”
Wilson said he felt for other locals, especially those in Goughs Bay, where the road was so badly damaged it might be months before it is fixed.
“I have to say, though, Orion have been heroes in all this. They had my power back on in two days.”
Christchurch City Council said it has 10 excavator crews working to clear the roads and ensure residents can have access to their properties.
But Goughs Bay, Hickory Bay, Long Bay, and Dalglishs​ Roads are closed to the public and will remain so over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday.
Lines company Orion was still working on urgent repairs on Tuesday afternoon, but power was expected to be restored at Long Bay, Fishermans Bay and most of Goughs Bay by the end of the day.
It would, however, take a few more days to get power back on for three properties right at the bottom of Goughs Bay, the council said.
Chorus said phone connections at all sites would be restored as soon as the power was back up.
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