Lester Higgins at his flooded property on Lords Rutherford Rd last Thursday. Photo: Simon Bloomberg.

Flooding hits Tasman region

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A blocked stream overflowed and flooded properties along Lord Rutherford Rd in Brightwater while a man was rescued from his house bus near the Waimea River after heavy rain hit the Tasman district last week.

Emergency services arrived on the banks of the Waimea River near the Bartlett Rd Quarry around 2am on Thursday to find the man stranded in his bus. The river was swollen and fast-flowing so police called in Nelson Surf Rescue, who used an inflatable rescue boat to reach the bus and rescue the man.

“When we arrived, the bus was about 25m off the high tide mark on the river and in just over a metre of water,” Nelson Surf Rescue member Noah Hosie says.

“We launched one boat and had another ready if we needed it but we managed to pull up beside the bus in the floodwaters and talk to the fellow inside through his window. He jumped into our boat and we ferried him across to shore.”

Noah says the water was well over the front wheels and rapidly creeping into the bus.

“The bus was nose into the water, I’m not sure if he’d gotten stuck or was just camping there for the night but it was a dangerous situation and a difficult rescue with the swollen river, poor visibility, and strong currents.

“If anyone had been in the water they would have been a goner.”

Flooding also hit properties on Lord Rutherford Rd with one resident Lester Higgins saying the water in his backyard almost ran into his offices. Lester says the flooding resulted from heavy overnight rain which ran quickly off earthworks in the nearby Katania Heights subdivision and into Jefferies Creek which then overflowed into the properties.

Although Jefferies Creek was widened by the Tasman  District Council in 2010 to alleviate flooding,

Lester says it still overflowed because the stock gates collected debris and formed a dam. He says the combination of run-off from the subdivision and the blocked stock gate caused the properties to be flooded.

“The design of the stock gates is wrong and they’ve clogged up and created a dam,” Lester says. “Most of the neighbours got flooded and the water was only 50mm from flooding into my office – it was a close call.”

Lester says he has lived in his Lord Rutherford Rd home since 1978 and there hasn’t been any flooding since council widened the stream. However, he says last week’s flooding is a concern and he’ll be speaking to council about the problem and asking for the design of the stock gate to be upgraded.

Lester says he was grateful to the developers of Katania Heights who quickly sent staff from one of their contractors, Fulton Hogan to help pump out the floodwater. Although runoff from the earthworks may have contributed to the flooding he says the stock  gate is the biggest problem.

“I’m a retired farmer so I know about streams and water and stock gates. Council needs to keep the stream bed clear and fix the design of the stock gate.”