Without a community, what have we got? Neighbours not talking to neighbours. High fences around housing. Dog eat dog. Not a nice environment.
Here, we have two aspects to flood protection. Regional council provides the infrastructure and the district council gets the water to the assets. Without either, we wouldn’t have a community.
You can go back to the whole economy. It wouldn’t exist without these assets. The roads and land would be all underwater. Without those assets, Hamiltonians and Aucklanders can’t get to their baches in the Coromandel. And if there was an emergency, emergency services couldn’t get there.
This property, we are 1.62 metres below mean high tide. It’s been in the family since 1932. There was a major flood in 1937 and another in the early 50s, and that was significant water where it breached a stopbank. It took a long, long time for the land to recover because of the sea water damage. The house next door that my grandparents built in 1952, I have seen a photo of a dinghy tied up to the deck.
The river is at the back of the farm and the coast is at the end of the road. The sea goes up and river goes up, then if you get an event at the same time then that pushes the river even higher. The floods stay until the river drops low enough for it to drain out. Our infrastructure has a service level for that to happen within three days. If it was any longer it would kill the grass.
On average, we have four floods a year. Not serious but enough to make you pull your hair out. My sharemilker’s kids were swimming on the front lawn on Christmas Day. On big floods, I have picked up a lot of urban rubbish from the top of the stopbanks: tyres, road cones, plastic, nappies.
You just really have to roll with the punches. Without that asset being maintained to the level it is we couldn’t farm here. The system is so good that the big events have not become significant to the greater plains. The inundation is not for a long time.
Our soil is just blue clay. Incredibly fertile. Under where we are there is 90 foot of this blue mud. When a truck goes by, the house wobbles. About 2 kilometres of stopbank is topped up each year because of the natural compaction. At the end of the farm, by the floodgate, the stopbank has been topped up three times since I was here, and the last time was quite substantial – 600 millimetres.
The original stopbank was hand dug at the turn of the century with wheelbarrows and planks. Our forbearers understood and went through the evolving of the system and understood the importance of it. New owners have no knowledge of what it would be like without the systems. The challenge going forward is not losing the local knowledge.
Roger Hunter’s property, which borders the Firth of Thames, is 1.62m below mean high tide.
"You can go back to the whole economy. It wouldn’t exist without these assets. The roads and land would be all underwater."
Drainage plays a big part in flood protection in the Hauraki Plains.