Over the last few years, it’s seemed like city after city around the world has become subject to extreme weather events that have been made worse by impacts from climate change. We’ve highlighted many of them in our Weekly Roundup series.

Sadly, over the last few days it’s been Auckland’s turn to experience this on a widespread scale.

An immense deluge hit on Friday, rapidly inundating areas across the whole city, with an official State of Emergency declared late on Friday night. More rain is forecast for today, currently bearing down on Northland and heading back towards Auckland and the Coromandel, with warnings that the new storm could be worse than Friday’s.

Our thoughts go out to the families of those who have lost loved ones in the flood, to everyone whose homes and possessions have been lost or damaged by polluted waters and landslips, and also to all the emergency responders and community groups out there helping people during this time.

Here’s the Auckland Emergency Management page about the current floods, for bookmarking. Please stay safe out there. Official advice is generally to stay at home as long as it’s safe to do so.

Also, the Spinoff has a useful list of where to get help if you need, and how to help if you’re able.(It’s compiled by volunteers, so is not exhaustive, but it’s a good place to start).

One thing that’s clear from this event is that while floods arrive quickly, reviewing the response takes time. There will be many aspects to discuss in coming weeks. It’s impossible to cover every angle in one post, let alone while the worst of the disaster and emergency clean-up is still very much upon us.

However, I’ve jotted down a few quick thoughts below to start with, and I welcome yours too.


As has been widely covered, public agencies were surprisingly poor at communicating on Friday – although as an experienced PT user, it certainly felt familiar. It was already clear by around 6pm that things were getting bad, with multiple areas of flooding being recorded, including on the Northern Motorway.

And yet agencies like Waka Kotahi seemed to think it would be fine to pack up and go home, at the very time they were needed the most.

This lack of communication via official channels was combined with a complete absence of leadership by the Mayor. His subsequent efforts which seemed to deflect blame towards everyone else has just highlighted that initial absence even more. Every day delivers another concerning lack of understanding about the importance of communicating well, widely and promptly.

It seems Wayne Brown has clearly lost confidence both with central government and a large cross-section of the city. That will be hard to fix.

Leadership is about much more than sternly worded letters. As of this morning, a petition for the mayor to resign has over 15,500 signatures.

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At least over the last few days, communication from our public agencies has improved. AT has a page here with all the disruptions to roads and PT networks.

I hope this event can be a catalyst for improving how the council and our public agencies communicate with the public. A programme of work is needed to work out what went wrong, and how it can be improved for next time. We should also be looking overseas (and locally, beyond Auckland) to learn what best practice is, and incorporate that into our plans.

One common theme of the voices from Friday was how incredibly fast the floodwaters rose, and how many near tragedies were closely averted by neighbours working together at speed. Read just one story and extrapolate by several thousand to get a sense of how life-threatening this event was.

Overall it was a very sobering live demonstration that if you don’t already have a plan, you don’t have time to make one. That should be top of mind in all the reviews of the official response. It’s also something we probably all need to think about at the household level.

Transport disruption

A number of roads and thus parts of our PT network are still disrupted as a result of the floods. This includes the rail network, with services reduced due to a number of slips along the lines.

And we’ve all seen the images of broken roads, and stranded and ruined cars. Getting our PT network ‘back to normal’ as fast as possible is likely to be doubly important for those who have lost cars in the floods.

Auckland Transport has a dedicated “weather watch” page listing road closures and giving travel advice. The key advice is to stay at home if it’s safe to do so; schools are closed until 7 February to assist in minimising traffic to reduce the burden on the roads and allow repairs to happen.

(Regular readers might add that minimising traffic could well be a multi-purpose tool to ensure a thriving present and survivable future, as well as reducing the burden on public investment and infrastructure of all kinds).

Friday night: the Oakley Creek/ Te Auaunga breached its channel and overflowed Great North Road, just south of the Waterview interchange. Photo supplied.
The Oakley Creek/ Te Auaunga pouring over Great North Road and across the adjacent path, just south of the Waterview interchange. Photo supplied.
Great North Road washout seen from the side, the day after the floods. Photo supplied.


At the height of the flooding, pictures and videos surfaced of buses driving through floodwaters. Note: driving through floodwater is officially discouraged.

No doubt some heroic choices were being made in the moment, which may well have helped many people get home (including from the cancelled Elton John concert, another topic to discuss), but hindsight raises a lot of questions.

As Stu points out in this tweet, this is definitely an area where driver training will be needed.


The floods highlight that we really need to think about our land use patterns and how that can help with our climate mitigation. Or, as the mayor quite insensitively said on Saturday “some of those houses, when you think about it, actually shouldn’t have been where they are“.

The mayor isn’t entirely wrong on this, as some of the houses worst affected also flooded only a few years ago, and will likely do so again in the future. As of this morning, over 200 houses have been red-stickered, while at least 5000 more await inspection for damage from floods and landslides.

Clearly we do need to be doing more to encourage housing in areas that won’t flood, or are less likely to flood. We probably also need to find ways to wind back some existing housing in flood plains, although this wouldn’t be cheap, and it will have significant impacts on the residents of those homes.

One thing I hope happens is a review and recalibration of the council’s flood plain mapping, to see how it compares to what happened. There are certainly some areas on the map where council has prevented housing changes that weren’t, as it happens, impacted by this flooding event. Meanwhile, some of the areas that were badly flooded don’t appear to be on this map.

As supermarkets ask customers to only buy what they need, and images appear of onions washed off the fields of Pukekohe and parts south, it’s also time to clarify where else we shouldn’t be building housing. We’re going to need those good growing soils to ensure future food supplies.

Mega-projects vs local programmes

In recent years, especially in transport, there has been a strong push towards bigger and bigger mega-projects. For example, even the huge City Rail Link now looks tiny compared to the proposed tunnel for light rail across the central isthmus, or an additional Waitemata Harbour crossing.

Perhaps instead of huge projects like these, the immediate focus should be on greater investment in smaller community-focused projects that make our streets fit for purpose. This is resilience-planning 101, and will reinforce a positive feedback loop.

Agencies should be prioritising projects that help people easily get around without a car, to help reduce emissions. And they should be fast-tracking those that include improvements to how we manage storm water, through both hard and soft infrastructure, to help reduce ongoing impacts from events like we’re experiencing.

Of course there will be a huge slate of urgent road repairs to address – but here too, we should expect a “build back better” approach. We’re already decades behind on climate-adapted streetscapes, and just repairing what’s there by putting it back the way it was will set us back further. We have all the tools and information we need to proceed with quick, simple upgrades.


Moreover, Council should start the year with fresh eyes on the proposed budget cuts. For starters,  the TERP (Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway) must be lifted back to the top of the agenda. We should also be asking for much more scrutiny of the impact of proposals to trim spending, by e.g. reducing health waters budgets. That starts to look penny-wise and pound foolish, barely months after it was proposed.

Finally, while this may well be the worst flooding event we’ve seen in living memory, we’ve had other bad ones in recent years. Here’s the previous Mayor, six years ago, describing a “one in a hundred year flood”. And climate change means we will almost certainly see more events like this in the future.

Top of the agenda for Tāmaki Makaurau as a city must be the question: how can we be better prepared for the next one?

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  1. Some idiot hydrologist will calculate a ‘return period’ on the flood. It is a misleading term that implies an equilibrium or stasis.

      1. Sure, but you gotta make SOME assumption. Lots of requirements for development / roading etc include a value for these things, which then leads to things like sizing pipes, floor level minima etc – or even the call to not build (there).

        As a society we won’t stop building stuff, so making some future assumptions, even though we may disagree on how aggressive we should be about increasing them, is needed. Simply keeping the old values is not ethical.

        1. 1) As far as I understand the storm saw circa 254mm in one hour compared to the previous max of around 160mm. Almost +60% !

          2) It then becomes a question of
          a) what the current design standard is, and how much of the existing network even meets that current standard
          b) does the design standard need to be raised

  2. My hope is that an outcome from this event is that the climate change conversation in NZ doesn’t just jump solely to mitigation. We must ALL stop burning stuff or we’ll just end up having to build mitigation upon mitigation.

  3. Was on Don Buck Road on Friday PM, got turned around at the base of the hill. It was bad. I had no idea what was going on, and I couldn’t have been much closer. Not even an alert or emergency broadcast (I was listening to RNZ at the time, too) and I have notifications for Auckland CDEM’s Twitter account on permanently because I’m a volcano tragic. A stunning lack of information about what was actually happening. Triangle Road bridge looked marginal at one point, but the new bits of Whenuapai had almost no standing water at all. Brigham Creek was running over the road, and that was at about 6pm.

    I’m keen to know what this changes about our understanding of intensification and run-off from developments that turn soakable land into concrete pads or buildings rooftops with a single down-pipe. I’m willing to bet this is making some previously safe housing a bit marginal if it has the effect of channelling more water into areas that weren’t previously high risk for flooding.

    Maybe some of the housing intensification in places like West Auckland should actually be being built in the central suburbs, where the ability to handle things like this can be concentrated and more effectively served, as opposed to scatter-gunning development out across the whole region because the inner suburbs don’t want to intensify.

    1. Auckland flooded everywhere, West, North, South, and Central. All have have high and low regions, some will naturally be more susceptible to flooding. Central Auckland doesn’t have some special ability to handle things like this more effectively than any other.

      1. Buttwizard is not discussing differences in the underlying geography. He’s pointing out that the higher density which should be happening in the central areas can be accommodated alongside more expensive, intensive stormwater infrastructure, justified by the higher number of residents, amenities, dwellings, and higher rates revenue.

        Further out, rather than continue to sprawl we should halt it, using:
        – good transport planning to create modeshift to public and active transport and
        – good land use planning including the conversion of roading, carparks and driveways to green infrastructure, cyclelanes and better footpaths, and to replacing low-level buildings and tarmac to higher rise buildings.

        1. I think this dataset is from 2018, from memory. So I’d be keen to know what a projected post-1.5 map looks like, especially after the effects of development in some of these areas, as well as the pathfinding effect from the most recent weather events (water tends to go where it’s already been).

  4. In a new 3 story development at Te Atatu every 2nd unit has a 1000L overflow thin tank. I’m not sure how they function, but I suspect some of the down pipes redirect into these and then they trickle feed out when the flow subsides.
    Even if all properties were required to have this I’m not sure if that would have stopped the flooding on Friday because the rainfall was so heavy. Perhaps some hydro engineers will be doing some number crunching on this type of thing.

    1. Yes, climate change means from now on we can expect some rain events will be higher than what these tanks can cope with, and there needs to be a belt and braces design for what happens when they are full. Sponge city designs are best, but at the very least we should be only allowed to build multistorey buildings without extensive driveways and carparking, leaving areas of permeable garden.

    2. if it was 10,000 litres if might make a difference, 1000 litres is only 1 cubic metre of water,

      If a house has a roof area of 100 sq metres (a random round number) then Fridays rain of 250mm would generate 25,000 litres of water

      1. I expect the developer install the 1000L because that is what the council requires it in these builds with low % of permeable land. A 10,000L would be the entire size of the back yard of these units. They would need to bury them. Could they still gravity drain or need pumping?

        1. “Could they still gravity drain or need pumping?”

          Probably would still work as gravity drains IF that was included in the design by laying the drains deep enough – but yeah, yet another complication.

          Plus, these things can FLOAT when empty. Like literally push out of the ground. Putting them underground means they need to be concrete for stability and to prevent them from coming up – and that increases their cost from the 5-10k of a plastic one above ground (tank and installation).

          Best solution seems to be larger wetlands interspersed throughout. What AT have been pushing for over the last 1-2 years now (after a big turnaround against rain gardens). Of course if you also need to size them larger for larger storm events, the space requirements keep increasing, which developers hate. But I suspect that’s our new normal.

        2. Down on the Kapiti Coast, we already have to have 10,000 litre tanks, and yes, we bury them in the garden.

        3. Even above ground water tanks intended for garden use can be really useful. If you’re given warning of the major rain event you can empty them in advance into the stormwater drain. This can spread the peak, at a minimum, and could remove that water from the stormwater system altogether (if done far enough in advance). It helps the homeowner because the downpipes are then freely draining during the deluge instead of backed up and overflowing to the backed up stormwater system.

          And if people’s rainwater tanks were connected to their laundry and toilet, and there were enough of them, there’d be capacity created between events without any active management. Simply from using the laundry and toilet.

          It’s another area that Council got wrong for decades (not allowing rainwater tanks to be connected to the laundry or toilet) and since changing that rule, haven’t actively pushed homeowners to install them.

  5. After seeing the flooding on the motorway can’t understand why the median barriers don’t have an open area above the roadway to allow for excess water to escape under them in addition to drainage. The way they are built allow for a lake to build up in extreme rain

    1. Previous versions of the concrete barrier had slots at the base to allow water to drain through. There are still some on SH20 at the Mangere interchange to allow overland flow. Later changes in design standard meant they no longer complied with crash resistance.

      1. Perhaps someone needs to change the standard in a hurry to ensure barriers don’t create huge ponds. It isn’t acceptable for them to say they changed their standard and that required drainage be ignored.

    2. The same should also apply to the Embankments along the Railway lines as shown here on the Derailment on ECMT on Saturday Morning , where one side overflowed and took out the line causing the Derailment .

  6. “Fwiw someone who drives a public bus in a New Zealand city has confirmed that bus drivers aren’t formally trained on how to drive in floods.
    With climate change, this probably needs to change*. ”

    Unlikely, because you can’t drive E-buses in floods… or if you do the manufacturer will not be helping you out …

    If you look at all the CRRC E-buses in NZ you will find they have very explicit “fording limit” marks all around the bus..

    They are basically at the level of the door sill.. so anything deeper than that the operators will be taking on their own liability.. pretty sure they wont do it…

    The marking is the sticker just behind the front wheel in this photo…

    1. Diesel powered buses should not be driven in water higher than the sill either.
      No matter what vehicle you drive, from a bus to a little hatchback to a raised up 4wd ute, do not drive in flooded areas without first walking through it so that you know exactly how deep it gets.
      Definitely train bus drivers on this.

  7. By the looks of pics, some of those buses were on the bus way. They couldn’t turn around. They either stopped, and stalled in floodwaters and caused a jam or continued to the relative safety of the bus stations. A judgement call by the drivers it seems. Who knows without having been there.

    1. After watching a video taken on one of the buses a number of the passengers where telling the driver to keep going which I think was the right thing to do as if He had stop it then would have involved more people to get out to rescue all those passengers .

      And these low floor may be good for the handicap , elderly and disable the old 2/3 step may have proved better by not getting the Passengers feet wet .

  8. On Saturday morning I had a visitor so I had a look at the front lawn it was still hard so I was able to drive my car onto it so he could park on my drive and not have to leave the car on the street. Most winters this isn’t an option. So my point is despite the 250 mm of water it hadn’t sunk in. Having nothing better to do I have being doing a bit of neighbourhood observation of the various new builds. The latest technique is to take out all the topsoil and replace it with gravel. This ensures that the builders aren’t working in mud. Landscaping what little land that hasn’t being built on or concreted over for driveways and parking consists of digging shallow holes in the gravel placing some compost and planting some flax and other plants. Weed cloth then 100 mm of bark. It seems to work so far but it has being wet. Whether it would work in drier times I don’t know. I would add a significant amount of effort is put into drainage with many driveways having grates and underground pipework. A typical development consists of up to 14 apartment each with its own small backyard being built on what was previously 2 large sections. I suppose they would be marketed as studios or some other wank term. Maybe very little of what came down on Friday soaked whether it grass or bark.

    1. I’d say trees are also really helpful. One mature tree can potentially absorb hundreds of liters of water a day from the ground, moreover it can absorb some notable amount of water before this water even hit the ground.

      I believe Auckland should be more serious with landscaping building more rain gardens and planting more trees not only in newly developed areas but in existing areas as well.

      I know Victoria park and the intersection near the New World was flooded. Did anyone see how Wynuard was looking on Friday? Did all these raingardens work well?

      1. Wynyard is flat, and close to the sea. I suspect that it all just drained off (at least in the sense that any flooding never got very high)? Anyone who was there able to confirm?

        Wynyard’s issues will be more if sea level rise speeds up (the other facet of the climate change “fun and games”)

        1. I can’t comment for the Northern end towards Silo Park but the Southern ends of Halsey, Daldy & Beaumont were knee deep in places. The basement car park of Air NZ looked to be submerged to around head height.

      1. We’ve had a few years of blocking high driving some interesting weather in NZ now. Outcomes have ranged from 100 days without rain in Auckland when other lows bounced off highs across the NI to this one where it’s locked in one that’s now just sitting to the North West of the North Island. Even our winters have been milder as a result. It’s been a while since a decent cold snap has made it to the Auckland region.

        1. Don’t agree with blocking the “climate denial” comments. That just pushes people away from engaging.

        2. Thanks KLK. But deleting comments seems to be the way things happen now…

          Funnily enough the article that Polix linked says pretty much exactly what I said about the blocking high pressure system.

        3. I wouldn’t block the first couple sure, it’s fun to pile on, and it’s good to defeat all the common talking points. But unchecked, comment sections can quickly dispace the target audience. Lots of people simply aren’t going to change their mind, the only effect they have is negative.

          Advocacy groups have had success in NZ by building elite consensus and bringing change from the top. The auckland rail network wasn’t turned around by asking the average joe if they wanted it. New housing density rules weren’t brought about by getting barbara to come around on letting people build homes near her. Rules change, and pubic consensus and stickiness is built after the fact. “Oh, those houses aren’t so bad in retrospect, 5 years later it’s like they’ve always been there, and my new friends live there”.

    1. ‘Unfortunately, as any yearly weather event, this will be blamed on “climate change” with not much evidence.’

      ‘Unfortunately, as any monthly weather event, this will be blamed on “climate change” with not much evidence.’

      ‘Unfortunately, as any weekly weather event, this will be blamed on “climate change” with not much evidence.’

    2. “climate change will manifest as a series of disasters viewed through phones with footage that gets closer and closer to where you live until you’re the one filming it”

      1. I’m not a “climate denier” or whatever the hip buzzword is now, but rather I find it hard to believe in the absence of statistics that this weather event was the direct result of carbon emissions and that it would have not occurred/been less severe with lower or no emissions.

        1. A lot of people point out that you can’t tell climate change is a thing from one weather event.

          Which is correct but then you also have to be willing to look at previous events. It seems we are getting 100 year event after 100 year event lately. It is too often to be coincidence. I’m pretty sure they have been keeping those statistics for longer than I have lived.

          As far as I understand it is not true that this flood would definitely not happen without climate change, but it would be much less likely.

        2. Science is a cousin of logic. There is a lot of science that can’t be proven true, but it is scientific if the theory can be proven false but the observations haven’t shown it to be wrong. It is pseudo-science if we create a claim that can’t be proven false. If you make the claim that this storm could have happened anyway and you assume a bell curve with tails going to infinity then nobody could prove that wrong. No matter how unlikely, the storm would be possible. But flip the logic. Is this storm proof climate change is wrong? No. Is it consistent with that theory? Yes. Should we assume this storm was really really unlikely so we don’t need to plan for another? Or do we think things are getting worse and make plans for that? Statistics can’t prove something true, the best it can offer is that something sits in a tail of a distribution so there is a difference between observation and theory at some level of certainty.

        3. The increasing number of record rainfall events is the giveaway. All things being equal the number of records being broken should decrease over time as the dataset gets bigger and bigger, instead they’re increasing.

        4. Remember the tale of the frog in the saucepan of slowly heating water? The frog said: “I find it hard to believe in the absence of statistics that this warming event was the direct result of my sitting in a pan of water. The water was cold when I got in. I notice no overall difference from a minute ago.”

  9. Your point about the Mayor saying “some of those houses, when you think about it, actually shouldn’t have been where they are“, is surely going to come back and bite Auckland in the bum one day. While he does seem to be completely crap as a Mayor in a crisis, he hit the nail on the head there. Clearly, building on a flood plain has been happening for many years (so, not Wayne’s fault). And it is not just Auckland – all round the country land is being built on, where it should not be. In Napier, they are building thousands of houses that are at / below the high tide mark in Te Awa, and relying on continual pumping from ditches to keep them dry. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen. In Pukekohe, they are building all over Auckland’s best agricultural land.

    But it is also the way we are building. Building a raised timber floor on piles is so much more flood resistant than a concrete slab on grade. Using ply as a bracing material rather than GIB is a good idea, as ply does not need replacing after inundation. Requiring a water butt for every new house is a simple but useful idea. Making driveways from permeable material rather than solid concrete. The building industry and design professionals need to wake up, as well as the Councils.

    1. Average human,this is where co governance is useful. Even 100 years ago the Maori tribes were scoffed at,when they suggested Pakeha shouldn’t, build there,as it floods,maybe the time has come to heed some of that advice.

    2. “Clearly, building on a flood plain has been happening for many years (so, not Wayne’s fault)”

      He is literally a property developer. I wonder whether he developed any subdivisions on flood prone land?

      So I agree – he said something very true there. But has he walked his talk?

    3. And one day they will do the same with Auckland’s largest green area Avondale Race Course which would be the ideal soak pit area .

      1. The Avondale race course is metres away from the Whau River. We have to hope the design team can make use of that to drain stormwater out of the site very efficiently..

        1. And you also have all these Council Owned Golf Courses which are leased out also being used as soak areas . Where as our Mayor is playing Tennis on a Solid area which just does nothing in the way of absorbing any water in way and if it’s Asphalt or Concrete it just generates more heat .

  10. This is really frustrating that primaries are also closed “to reduce the traffic”. All zoned primaries in Auckland (maybe with some exceptions) are in walking distance and this does not make sense to do blanket closure for entire week. I believe this is not adequate for colleges either. If they care that much about roads, they could close those particular roads themselves, not education facilities. Children of New Zealand have already taken too much damage from COVID school closures and we should not deprive them all from education just because it’s raining and some schools are flooded.

    1. Agree. Ridiculous that they close all schools all week when it is likely this thing (if it happens) will hit mainly tonight/tomorrow and they know which schools/areas are likely to be a problem. Make the call to assess the situation on a case by case basis if and when it happens and cancel accordingly. Kids in Auckland need an education. I don’t buy the traffic argument at all.

      1. Exactly. Kids in Auckland should be swimming to school if they can’t walk. It’ll do them a world of good, and build up their arm and leg muscles.

    2. That was exactly my thought. Damaged schools should be closed if needed. Nobody should be penalised if they CAN’T safely get to school. However, so many schools are intact and walkable. We already have issues re-engaging Auckland kids with schooling after covid – I thought education was a human right and it seems nuts to close schools that don’t need closing.

    3. Completely agree, Andrew. Students’ education and motivation has already been affected hugely by the disruption of Covid. This direction reveals the government’s value system. Our young people, and the ecological systems on which every aspect of society relies, need to be at the front of our emergency and climate responses. They are not.

      A better response would have been:
      – emergency 30 km/hr limits throughout the city to establish a safer base transport system.
      – providing schools with emergency powers, guidance, and officials to open the surrounding streets to active transport only during the school start and end times
      – instruct parents not to drive their kids to school. This could help with behaviour and systems change longer term, encouraging families to consider shifting their children to the local school.

    4. There may be schools that could have opened, but:
      1) We still have some unknown effects to come from this week’s rain forecasts.
      2) Schools each need time to inspect and make good their property – even if many may have survived unharmed.
      3) Many paths accessing schools (roadside and walkways/reserve paths) need to be inspected and quite a few will need to be closed, affecting walk-to-school routes.
      4) Schools do generate a lot of traffic, so closing all does reduce the load until road repairs can be assessed.
      5) Teachers (like my daughter) need to re-plan curriculum for 1 week late start.

      1. That all sounds good in theory. I live across the road from our school and can see it all day, will see if anyone will do any real inspections in fact.

      2. The first emergency response should be ensuring walking and cycling paths are safe. Only in countries that ignore basic human rights and the need for improved equity and modeshare would the authorities get the traffic lanes flowing first. Leaving the debris on the footpath as AT often does is outright backward.

        If there will be an inspection of footpaths and paths to ensure they’re safe before the kids go to school the results will be that most are not. We already know that from other safety audits. Yet the dangers will have nothing to do with the current climate event.

        Schools generate traffic, but it doesn’t need to be in motorvehicles. Shifting this traffic back to walking and cycling is the task AT have been handed.

        Even a few days out like this will make planning hard for the teachers and keeping up with the work hard for the students at senior levels, coming as it does after so much earlier disruption.

    1. Depends on whether the Government wants to be reelected. Three waters is a rotting corpse of a policy, everything it tried to achieve was worthy enough but it was so deeply unpopular that even Judith Collins managed to make gains by opposing it. It was her one and only success.

        1. It won’t be popular. But MAYBE it will mean that National (if elected) will just make cosmetic changes.

        2. I honestly can’t see how it would help. Would there have been less flooding if Watercare had control of stormwater? The benefit is supposed to be the new agencies can borrow at a lower rate but on the other hand they would be bigger agencies with more staff and more managers. It’s not like Auckland Transport does a better job on potholes than the old Councils did. It seems like 1990s thinking to believe that restructuring public services can offer some imaginary benefit.

        3. “It seems like 1990s thinking to believe that restructuring public services can offer some imaginary benefit.”

          It always seemed to me that – for Watercare, OR Three Waters – the biggest benefit was that Joe Blogsworthy, Farmer from Whattaboutari, elected local Mayor repeatedly since 2003 on a low-rates platform, can’t prevent necessary investment.

          I am far from an expert on the matter, but the undercurrent (hah!) of a lot of the stories I see from both places like Wellington and others areas is that much of their infrastructure is older than their politicians, and nobody wants to bite the bullet and ask for the rates money needed to do what is needed, because that will kill your chances at election time. If Three Waters reduces that issue alone, then it will be a success.

        4. It won’t though. Making an Auckland water authority also responsible for serving the entire upper North Island is going to lose to a drastic loss of focus. The Auckland region alone had hugely varying levels of intensification the new entity is supposedly going to be able to serve intense development within existing residential areas (like the kind Henderson is going through) as well as a huge expanse of rural but sparsely populated land with what is effectively a sub-tropical climate, and which spends a good chunk of any given year either totally flooded or in a defacto state of drought. They’re supposed to manage that as well as water demands in our biggest city.

          Let’s not forget that some of the problems 3W was supposedly solving existed in places where communities don’t even have water meters and rally against the thought of them. Or the Auckland drought where the long-standing application for extra Waikato water was simply left languishing by another authority.

          Watercare was fine. 3W is a bad deal for Auckland, and will lead to poorer outcomes. It will result in less funding per km for Auckland services/infrastructure. There is close to zero evidence that centralisation of services has actually worked out positively for Auckland, and dozens of examples where it has resulted in no progress or actively undermined what Auckland actually needed.

        5. Serious doubts that Watercare could manage stormwater issues effectively. I have never thought that Watercare or a new Auckand & Northland Agency could deal with that. What they could do is enable capital financing that Council’s can’t get, and have an oversight of Council planning for stormwater management. It’s not just pipes – surface water management just doesn’t fit a utility provider model.

        6. They are still setting things up, so a more stormwater & wetlands etc like focus could still be part of their agenda.
          I think Auckland would probably benefit the least of all the areas though with out super city already having some agglomeration benefits. As miffy points out one of the benefits is the new agencies can borrow at a lower rate, so that is something new I guess for Auckland as well. Perhaps Whangarei & more north should actually be in a different region.

        7. The benefits of borrowing at a lower rate and that sort of spicy stuff should have been available to Auckland anyway, as the government pursued a de facto population policy that added a whacking great stack of people, without the matching investment in infrastructure from Central Government to go with Central Government’s migration policy settings.

          So instead of adding a hugely convoluted water reform package of questionable benefit to Aucklanders just to do something they should have already been doing, maybe they could have just done the thing they should have done from the start. Otherwise the assumption is that unless there’s a hugely centralised reorganisation of something relating to badly needed infrastructure, central government can be excused for not providing it in the first place, which they should have.

          So forgive me for being cynical that the people who got us into this mess are going to get us out of it by suddenly doing what they should have done in the first place. We’re in this situation for a reason.

        8. +1 Buttwizard.
          3W is at best just going to add more bureaucracy to everything and at worst become a privatisation/race based clusterF.

        9. Only if co-governance was removed and the council compensated properly for the loss of the assets. Nobody should own water, its for the benefit of everyone.

  11. Wayne will be a hopeless mayor – all bluster and no action – but calling for his head on this so soon sounds a bit political to me, from those appalled at his recent win. Let’s at least wait for the official review/debrief.

  12. There are 3 levels of stormwater infrastructure in Auckland.
    1: Environmental – the regular rainfall for 300 days each year that really affect stream quality. Raingardens and rain-harvesting tanks with limited capacity.
    2: Service-level rainfall – set at theoretical 1 in 5 yrs for roof guttering, 1 in 10 yrs for road drains. Road drains and stormwater pipes ought to be able to keep streets clear up to that limit, but it’s not good for stream health.
    3: Storm events – personal safety and protection of habitable floors. Not all roads will remain passable, but everyone should be able to stay safe. Planning and engineering (culvert sizes, detention pond capacity) has been based on theoretical 100 yr storm at the time of design, in recent years with some climate change allowance.
    This is clearly not enough for the new hydrology of atmospheric rivers, so plans need new rules and new design concepts. These will take time and will be hard to apply in existing at-risk areas, especially as areas not at risk themselves contribute to the risk downstream.
    UK SUDS concepts, focusing on flood events will be needed. A small raintank for each house will soon overflow, so community flood storage will be the necessary solution. All school fields and public sportsfields will (unfortunately) be needed for this (sorry, Eden Park). Photos show that Takapuna Golf Course did its job, flooding from Wairau Stream, so let’s not fill all of it with apartments. Neighbourhoods will need to have open space that can hold substantial flood volumes back from the streams. Local streets will need to hold some depth of water safely.
    Hobsonville Point worked well, but we put a lot of effort into the Stormwater design, and the catchment is quite small anyway.
    The flat last one-third or so of streams may be designed for fast flood run-off, but everywhere else needs to hold back flood volumes to prevent scour and floods from culvert blockages.
    Some Flood models are now quite old and need to be updated with new rainfall and developed area models before planning adaptation.
    A lot for us to do. Wayne just picked the wrong day to state the problem.

    1. “All school fields and public sportsfields will (unfortunately) be needed for this”

      And all use of them for parking cars at events needs to stop immediately, as this severely reduces the ability of the soil to absorb rainwater.

    2. Should we fear scour? Scour is the reason the West Coast can handle huge volumes of rain. Scour seems like it could be the solution, so long as there is a natural creek bed that can erode and not a concrete bottom channel. Wairau means ‘many waters’ so maybe it is actually supposed to flood. The only problem I can see is they built a narrow concrete channel like a mini version of the LA River.

      1. Yeah it is a sad little culvert. Given how low density the area is, it seems silly right now to not leave some space for the river. It also drains a really hilly area, so if a downpour happens the water will arrive quickly.

        The stream runs right behind the North Shore Event Centre, the place where they initially tried to set up an evacuation centre. I am curious which process lead to that decision. The event centre is actually coloured blue on that flooding map.

        1. Looking at the video of the Wairau Valley floodwater and the motorway south of Northcote Rd. flood got me wondering and with a check on the topo map it appears that the Wairau Valley water may well have run over the contour at Northcote Rd. (by the Poenamo pub) and into the south Northcote Rd. area. Does anyone have confirmation that this was the case and is this the first time that this has happened?

        2. That overtopping hasn’t happened since Pupuke erupted – that’s when the stream turned left and went out to Milford.
          The idea of the culvert and the industrial zone was for low value extensive sheds and yards in the expected flood plain (not a brilliant idea). Building a food store in the flood plain (Pak’n Save) – really asking for trouble.

      2. You used to be able to follow the creek all the way from Milford to the Sunnynook Park skateboard bowl. The only part you couldn’t ride through was the swamp built in front of Denny’s.

  13. I had an extremely tough time trying to get hold of a council inspector for my place. Was told Julie Fairey* told me to use the council complaint form, but this wouldn’t work as it was not council infrastructure, and stopped right there. Eventually Christine O’Brien** reported it for me. Apparently I should have called it in to the council hot line. But still there is still no advice on the Auckland Emergency Management website on how to do this.
    The inspectors will come in the “next few days” but I think that this is OK as it is one corner that is drooping with washed out piles. My place is not in an area with a lot of other houses damaged. If it was I guess the inspectors would have come anyway.
    * Julie is doing a magnificent job
    ** And so is Christine
    Other councillors doing great jobs are Richard Hills, Jo Bartley, Shane Henderson and probably a whole lot more.
    BTW my own councillor is MIA (Waitemata)
    So if someone from council is reading, please add something about how to get an inspector to call!

  14. I’d remove the politics out of this posting (we know Jon Turner stood for Labour/Greens and hates Wayne Brown, and the lefties here also dislike him) and then it makes a good read.

    While the lefties may not like what Wayne said (and take offence at their own shadows) he is right, many of those houses should never have been built where they are.

    I personally feel sorry for those on bikes and electric cars who could go nowhere in the floods.

    1. Its a really dumb comment for at least 5 reasons:
      1) Its not very sensitive to someone who has just lost their house
      2) He’s basically saying his own council have been useless
      3) He’s potentially opening the council up to liability
      4) Most of those places would have been consented before global warming was a thing
      5) It seemed like the only thing he had to say on the whole flood, and it wasn’t going to help anyone.

    2. In fairness Wayne has given the left a lot of easy fodder in the last few days.

      Whatever Jon Turner’s leanings there’s nothing wrong with shedding light on Wayne Brown trying to trim money for the budget for stormwater/wastewater improvements. It means we can all judge for ourselves.

    3. There is plenty of footage on the internet of people hydrolocking their engines (petrol or otherwise) while wading. Many cars take their air pretty low above the ground. If water gets into the engine it is game over.

    4. And there I was feeling sorry for all the car drivers I cycled past on the way home on Friday night, either gridlocked, stuck in the water or disabled from sucking in water. Took me 10 mins longer than usual but I might not have made it at all with a car. Also I felt like I helped out by turn ing back some drivers attempting to go into places that already had stricken cars.

  15. Awakeri Wetlands project, AC’s $100m stormwater scheme in Takanini worked well and saved 3000 houses from flooding. Although outlet on corner Artillery Dr and Arimu Rd was within half a meter of flooding on to Papakura streets. Culvert under Walters Road might have reached 80% capacity but from there to Artillery plenty of spare capacity. Worth a visit impressive growth of the natives planted. Water clear compared to the Papakura Stream which was very high and muddy.

    1. Would be really good to hear more about this scheme Niall – maybe you could write a piece for Greater Auckland on the project? Or point us to where more information already is? Thanks

    2. Expensive but brilliant piece of civil engineering that enabled a lot of new housing. It would be good to hear from some of the “swamp-dweller” streets what did and what didn’t cope.

    1. Council certainly should have been using good land use planning. It’s more complicated than just ‘not allowing development’ in certain areas, particularly as the concept of a 1 in 100 year flood is constantly changing with climate change. Council do need to allow lots of development, so to “not allow development” in some areas, there needed to be an enormous shift to make it easier to develop well in the areas where it is appropriate.

      The problem is Council planners being too timid to face up to the need for allowing higher developments closer to side boundaries, de-incentivising backyard infill and the addition of car infrastructure (and requiring inappropriate car infrastructure be removed). Plus the general problem of sprawl and road building, which have sucked the coffers dry.

      Because of this timidity, or inability to understand the bigger picture, Council planners have waved through developments that don’t even meet the coverage rules we have; they’ve systematically allowed “paths 1m wide” to be considered permeable, even if blocked on one side by a house with a concrete slab and on the other side by a concrete block boundary wall. (By systematically, I mean that when people point this stupidity out, they confirm they’ve decided it meets their requirements.) And don’t get me started on Council’s absolute head-in-the-sand attitude about vehicle crossings (which ruin the environment in multiple ways), despite having ample legislation and regulation to reduce the number we have.

      We’ve known for 30 years that for Auckland, climate change would increase the intensity and frequency of rain events.

      The question is, given accountability seems to be a bad word, who will make things change?

  16. Building in flood plains and on overland flow paths has obvious results. Storm water infrastructure can never be built to cope with infinite rainfall and economics drive it to maybe 1:25 or 1:50.
    Horizontal infrastructure will clearly be more affordable in a more vertical city. The council could help itself by pushing for more high rise apartment buildings.
    People need to be able to go home in bad weather. PT should be more reliable. The buses did as well as could be expected. Trains were already out of action, which shouldn’t have happened

  17. I suspect that an event such as this, tragic as it is, may be the catalyst necessary to get people thinking about climate change and its effects on them personally. From that, how they may have to change their behaviours.

    1. NZ is in utter thrall to car-based transport, 98% of which remains fossil-fuel powered. Few people are prepared to take a meaningful stand against this, and many actively oppose and challenge any suggestion of change. These attitudinal traits are also reflected among politicians and decision-makers, so a sudden flood of responsible policy seems unlikely any time soon. NZ is going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming out of its car-addiction and I fear it will take much bigger jolt than the mere flooding of Auckland to change these deeply-ingrained patterns. I suspect we will continue to try and engineer our way around the effects of climate change rather than take the drastic action needed now to slash carbon-emissions. Every week or so a car-transporter ship unloads its cargo of hundreds of imported, fossil-fuel-powered SUVs on to Wellington’s wharf. I expect the same happens in Auckland. This is an indication of how un-serious we are about this.

      1. Dave B (Wellington) And here in Auckland there is either 1everyday or every second day , and sometimes 2 at the same time .

      2. Dave B – have you seen the wharfs in Wellington this week? Just down next to the stadium, the unloading area is literally covered in brand new Scania trucks – hundreds of them – all with the latest diesel engines. I’ve honestly never seen so many trucks in one spot. Our response to stopping global warming is not happening any time soon…

        1. I’d be interested if you had the information on what “latest diesel engines” means exactly.

          Do you have some confirmation that they’re some incarnation of Euro VI? Euro VIE?

          Euro VIE would be welcome news.

          The fact that they are still allowed to be Euro V is insane. Been working on a post about the toxic emissions regs in NZ. So behind the times. The latest Euro standards can be 10x, 2x at least, better than what the current brand new NZ Hiluxes are for example.

        2. What do you suggest they use instead of trucks? Do we want to start using draft horses? The current availability of BEV trucks isn’t great, Scania and Volvo do make them but the range is limited, do we have the charging infrastructure in place for trucks in NZ, they need higher capacity chargers than cars.

        3. We have completely “painted ourselves into a corner” with the degree to which we have become road-transport dependent (addicted is a better word). We know it is screwing our environment as well as damaging our health and our society, but we simply cannot face changing away from it. The very characteristics of serious a drug addiction.

        4. Dave if these are milk tankers for Fonterra as someone suggested how would you collect milk from the farm gate if not with trucks? How would farmers more stock from farms to freezing works without trucks? There’s a lot of uses for trucks which can’t be replaced by other means.

        5. Neal: In the old days NZGR had 4 wheelers which took Stock to the Works from sidings all around the Country .
          And the stock was walked to those sidings .

      3. Well the flooding has taken shiploads of cars off Auckland’s roads permanently. Replacements will be some months away, and at a huge cost to our precious resources.

        Without these cars, we can expect immediate additional pressure on our bus services.
        Especially, given that Auckland’s rail system is at the moment, largely defunct, even without the flooding.

        More buses right now, is not an answer. Availability of vehicles and drivers already being so limited.

        What is immediately available though, is kilometers of inefficiently used road space. Space available for reallocation, to speed up our existing buses.
        Thus allowing, each bus and driver to accomplish more trips. And this would simultaneously reduce the journey times of scores of people.
        This is way more efficient, then maintaining the journey times, for the one, perhaps more, occupants per car, on the same route.

        And even more efficient still, then providing, largley free storage, on our incredibly valuable public land, for private non moving vehicles.

        Just surrender parking, and where possible one lane, to 24 hour bus lanes. Perhaps as a comprimise some T4 lanes.

        Our state of emergency actually enables cumbersome process to be bypassed.

        But it does require effective leadership, something our current Mayor at this stage seems severly lacking, along with his communication skills.

        So far the only thing our Mayor seems to have been effective in, is bullying out any initiative from AT, and other the other Council entities.

        So Mayor Brown, an opportunity now, to actually do something really significant, to quickly reduce current problems and provide you with a long term legacy. Something, actually to Fix, right now.
        And a wonderful opportunity to enhance your communication skills to sell it.

        Please, instruct AT, to urgently reallocate road space to make our existing bus fleet, drivers and passengers, so much more productive by reducing their journey times.
        Bus transponder operated traffic lights are still a great idea, but are for the future, near future, as well, hopefully.

        And, the new Minister for Auckland, please provide the encouragement and support, to make this happen, urgently.

        We are now in an emergency, on so many related ways.

        1. Don R The only places that will have a shortage of car will be the Dealers as those that they have will be sold to those that lost theirs in the floods .

        2. How many of those cars were electric. Lol. And fortunately by petrol. That add on tv for electric cars is right. Be good to mother nature, and she’ll be good to you. Obviously the labour’s government is not listening, for every electric car that goes on the road, more water is needed to generate power to charge them. We’ll they got their wish. They got more water than they know what to do with.

          Good luck to those hoping to get back to normal.

  18. It costs much more to build roads, footpaths, power lines and 3 waters to 50 families each living in a separate house than building one apartment for those 50 same families.
    The ongoing service costs are also less as rubbish collection trucks need to travel less and will empty large bins that have been better separated into a environmentally friendly way.
    Post delivery and public transport stops would also benefit.

  19. In an Op-ed in Stuff today by Nick Rogers, there was a little snippet alleging Ports of Auckland have repeatedly blocked the construction of a storm water outlet under Quay Street that would have alleviated the flooding in the Stanley Street/Strand area. If true, how can this state of affairs be allowed in the first place or continue?

    1. I may be out of my depth here but I couldn’t help but notice alot of steep banks without piles, crib walls and MSE walls to stabilize roads and properties. Is it really expensive and who pays for this?

  20. Can someone explain how to use these geomaps from the Auckland Council?

    It said, ‘Check for flood risks before you buy or build – Auckland Council, Check for flood hazards in the area of your property before you buy or build. Get property information to help you make the right decisions.”

    –> But, I cannot seem to find the layer that reflects where the flood zone is?

    Not working / or maybe not understanding how it works – https://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/geospatial/geomaps/Pages/default.aspx

    I had read the Guides to using GeoMaps, Features of the GeoMaps toolbar, but there isn’t a place to click – flood overlay looking like this “https://data-aucklandcouncil.opendata.arcgis.com/datasets/aucklandcouncil::flood-plains/explore?location=-36.892133%2C174.853776%2C13.00”

    Please advise if below map is useful for flood zone evaluation? https://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/geospatial/geomaps/Pages/default.aspx

    Thank you

    1. On Geomaps, select “Environment” theme from top icon toolbar (second left). Using Legend, open Catchments and Hydrology where you find flood plains, Flood prone areas (depressions) and Overland Flow paths.

  21. Has anybody thought that the digging under streets, or tunneling under the road to get to the Harbour bridge could’ve had been some of the course for the flooding. There has been no mention of flooding in the train subway, or the tunnels that were completed last month. Some of it probably is climate change, but I Dear say it most of it is caused by man!

      1. Yes their updated comments on there:
        UPDATE: In response to your questions, storm water was able to enter and flow through the CRL tunnels during the recent severe weather event at the project’s three open partially-constructed station sites – Maungawhau/Mount Eden, Karanga-a-Hape (Karangahape) and Te Waihorotiu (Aotea).
        Once complete, CRL has been designed to be future-proofed against flooding events due to waterproofing built into station buildings and tunnel linings, pumping systems and detention areas. The open tunnel portal at Maungawhau/Mount Eden has been designed and is capable of handling a 1-in-2500-year flood event.

        1. Back when the Vector/Mercury Tunnel was under construction there was always water seepage every time it rained , and the major problem was the water rising under Mayoral drive and the 11,000 volts running through it and that was just the temp power supply .

        1. Well there’s the cities problem. No mention of that or the subway on the news, old jacinda got out in time. Her stuff upstairs.

        2. Rhonda – Watercare use to have a FB page and now that has disappeared as all the photo’s were on that . Also the news just like Death and Destruction with the misery of those involved .

          Also this was not shown either as it belonged to Volunteer Society and no Deaths or injuries wear involved ;-

      1. You never had to to go underground to get on the Harbour bridge. But some how now that’s what they’ve down. It’s below sea level.

  22. Flood plain revisions – will Council have any liability when their actions and inactions have created or expanded flood plains? Is it easier to designate several properties as now on a floodplain after approving intensive use of land uphill than to put in expanded stormwater capacity?

  23. Typical, I feel sorry for Auckland, have whanau up there. That idiot who is mayor reminds of Clinton, he will neither take responsibility for the late call on state of emergency, anybody by 3pm could see it was getting worse. Obviously he has no sense of responsibility or conscious, if he was thinking of going to play tennis with the BOYS!
    And as for the drilling in that area, it would have had a lot to do with the flooding in those areas, when they built the under ground access to the Harbour bridge, did they factor in it could be flooded in the future, just like that stupid white tent arena on the water front

      1. No you won’t, but it’s going to billions to repair, someone got out and took photos of the water damage and it show , even under the tracks there is subsidence

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