Corncern as district river levels continue to drop
River levels in parts of the region are lower than farmers have seen for decades. Long-time Tiniroto farming identity Syd Kent said he had not seen the Hangaroa River so low for a long time. “It’s the lowest I’ve seen it in 40 years,” he said.
The low level in a number of rivers is symptomatic of the on-going impact of the developing drought situation in the region.
Gisborne District Council environmental data officer Greg Hall said some rivers were particularly low. “The Wharekopae, the top of the Waipaoa River and the Te Arai River are at the lowest levels seen for some time,” Mr Hall said.
The Waipaoa and Te Arai rivers are under intensive monitoring. The water levels are being gauged manually 2 or 3 times a week.
“Rivers on the East Coast are not so bad. All the rivers up there are lower than normal but not unusually so,” Mr Hall said. “The worrying thing is that I would not be surprised if the drop in river levels carries on for a longer period yet. This could be a sustained period of low levels.”
Farmers report sheep have been walking across sections of the Hangaroa River for the first time in years.
Wairoa District Council emergency officer Tim Allan said the Hangaroa at Doneraile Park is about 460 millimetres deep and flowing at 600 litres a second. “That means it’s hardly even moving, it’s so low,” Mr Allan said. “At this time last year it was 650 millimetres deep at that spot and running about four times faster.”
Staff at Gisborne Information Centre have heard from several people who have gone to the Rere rockslide on the Wharekopae River and expressed concern about the water level. “They’ve told us it is low and we’re advising caution,” i-Site spokesman Ryan Raggett said. A man suffered slight injuries last week when he went down the slide.
Council regulatory services manager Sarwan Kumar inspected the slide this week and agreed the water level was low. “However I would not say it’s dangerous on the slide itself and there is still a good amount of water in the pond at the bottom.”
A tyre tube or other flotation device would be quite safe but as with all things people have to be careful, he said.
“I certainly would not recommend people go down it at present without a flotation device of some kind,” Mr Kumar said.
Eastern Fish and Game officer Mark Sherburn said trout populations in rivers like the Wharekopae and Hangaroa were not being put under stress by the situation. “The trout in all the rivers are coping OK with the conditions,” he said.
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