Life at No.22, Musings, New Zealand

Rain in Biblical Proportions

Good leadership is more challenging than our previous Prime Minister made it seem. She was seriously missed during this latest weather crisis that has made most of us more aware that our country isn’t taking climate change seriously enough. Our infrastructure can’t cope with what will eventually come, our economy can’t manage the changing climate, and our communities can’t cope with what that all means. Most of us by now understand the urgency and need for climate change adaptation and what that must mean for us all. Welcome to the future. I don’t know why being angry at politicians helps us; we are the ones who put them in power. It may be time to get involved at ground level within our communities to make our voices more powerful.

History Repeats

This aerial image doesn’t include our old property though it is around the same area

During the winter of 2004, we endured a 100-year event in the form of a significant flood; we in the Bay of Plenty have had a few since then, as has the rest of New Zealand.

How did the flooding of our previous 14-acre rural property occur?

To cut a long story short, a 100-metre stretch of protective embankment on the Rangitaiki River broke just above Edgecumbe township, a few kilometres from that property. The defensive works were built in the 1970s to withhold a 100-year flood; obviously, that could have worked out better. To make matters worse, thousands of hectares of farmland, including our previous land already underwater, were further inundated as vast volumes of water were spilled from the Matahina hydroelectricity dam, which was filled beyond capacity. We could see the water rolling over our land towards us as we stood on the upper deck. Even over time, that image has not been erased.

Many old timers classed this flood as the worst in living memory. Though for others, no matter how many have gone before, it is the worst situation if you are personally affected. Luckily, we lived in a two-storey house with the lower level underwater up to a metre or so. This weather bomb had us creating our own Noah’s Ark, with three cats, one dog and two humans occupying the top half. We did have to navigate the flood waters once they had slightly receded to take our dog Blue to the Squire’s parent’s place for a short break as he was becoming more anxious about his daily constitution with the water touching his belly and beyond. The felines were quite happy with their makeshift dirt box, and as long as they were fed and had some space to sleep, they were pretty content. Though I did see a few longing glances out to their expansive playground, where hunting was their favourite pastime. Our olive and citrus trees survived though the passionfruit vines never really recovered.  

Stretch the cat wanting his personal space during confinement

Like a bad joke, mother nature delivered a concentrated flurry of at least a dozen quakes, centred 20km northwest of Kawerau [approx 10kms away from us], the biggest measuring 5.4 on the Richter scale. Some shocks triggered landslides across the Bay of Plenty, making work even harder for weary Civil Defence workers.

The house was basic in structure as the land was where our energies and focus were concentrated. The flood waters reached half-way up the downstairs walls. With the naked eye, the land was flat, or so we thought.
2004 – 2005 Hammers and other valuable tools were excellent to rid us of weather frustrations

Taking a big breath, we gathered together once the rain had stopped and the sun appeared to eventually strip the walls of plasterboard, dump personal items that were water damaged and generally clean up the property. Though we never totally relaxed when the next downpour occurred. We were pleased to say goodbye to that rural lifestyle. When the Squire drove our packed to the roof motorhome down the long driveway in 2008, it signalled we had begun a new adventure by touring NZ in that old converted bus/motorhome.

Our current situation isn’t on a flood plain or previous swampland like our last abode in suburbia. We are flood free for now. Best not to question what the extent of another hissy fit from mother nature will do and in what form it will occur. However, it is time to examine further what humans are doing to the place we call home.

23 thoughts on “Rain in Biblical Proportions”

    1. I think it’s all about the extremes of the rain, wind, snow or whatever arrives. Our piece of NZ is starting to feel like the tropics. Though the annoying rain can go as many people who are being affected really can do without more stress and the financial burden that comes with flooding.

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  1. What a dreadful and scary experience to live through. I’m glad you and the animals were all OK but clearing up the mess afterwards must have been a nightmare, not to mention losing valued possessions.

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    1. Thanks Sarah, we learnt and moved on. As the old saying goes, What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Even with the floods we had many happy moments getting the place looking like it was loved. It was previously an apple orchard and one which myself and siblings were taken to by Mum for our bags of fruit.

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  2. What a nightmare you lived through, Suzanne. And not the first from what I know of your recent history ๐Ÿ™„๐Ÿ’— Thanks for writing about it. So many of us live in our bubble, bystanders to the real world.

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    1. We survived it and in some ways, it made us stronger as most adverse situations do as we are certainly not a couple that will let things get us down for long. Always a new adventure around the corner if we look harder enough. Thanks Jo x

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  3. It is a tragedy for reasons that were entirely predictable. Absolutely devastating, Suzanne, and triggering for people in your situation, Having worked on climate change matters in the past and heard many excuses for not taking hard decisions earlier, I am beyond furious. People have been warned but they either didn’t listen or weren’t in a financial position to find a safer home.

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        1. That’s about as bad as reclaiming swampland. Then when pipes need to be replaced they have to erected above land as the water table is too high. Got to love their way of thinking. Good luck to all of us.

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    1. I think when we were in that situation we just got on with it. Afterwards when we had further downpours is when the anxious feelings came about. That was easily solved by moving on to another challenge. I feel good about all the trees we planted and that are still harvesting oil not to mention other non fruit native trees/plants that were planted around the house.

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    1. Deb, it has been devastating to see the damage and my heart goes out to those affected by the floods. I question why on earth are we still building near cliff faces and in low lying places. Being too optimistic that nothing untoward will occur?

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