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Waitaki lakes camping season ticket-holders affected by recent flash flooding near Otematata are to receive a 50% refund on the cost of their passes, the Waitaki District Council has announced.

The flooded Otematata River broke its banks on January 29 and caused extensive damage to the Boat Harbour camping ground, including caravans and tents, and the camp’s boat ramp.

About 30 caravans and tents were at the camping ground at the time of the flood.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said those who lost camping gear, had it damaged, or were forced to abandon their camping plans for the rest of the season would be refunded half of the cost of their season passes, which sold for $380.

Those who relocated to other camping grounds to continue camping would not be refunded.

He said 10 to 20 people qualified for refunds, which would cost the council between $3800 and $7600.

“We’re trying to be fair to them and make sure we’re doing right by them.”

Mr Kircher described the flooding as a “once in 30-year” event, and said work to protect the river had helped mitigate the effects of the flood.

As debris was still strewn around the camping ground, it has been closed until the it was cleared and repairs to the boat ramp made.

The council was working alongside Environment Canterbury and the NZ Transport Agency to determine what river work was necessary.

A large number of people were evacuated from the campsite, with the process complete by about 11.30pm.

Waitaki District Council recreation manager Erik van der Spek said the river has a normal flow of 6cumecs to 20cumecs, but within three to four hours the flow had increased to 500cumecs.

At the time of the evacuation, the depth of the water at the camping ground was one metre and it was flowing quickly.

Mr Kircher praised the efforts of Waitaki district camp managers Simon Fox and Carson Welsh, who helped co-ordinate the evacuation.

“These two men acted very quickly to help with the evacuation and, thanks to their efforts, risk to people’s lives was minimised.

“I would also like to acknowledge and thank the Otematata Volunteer Fire Brigade and other members of the community who helped that night and the next morning.”

Mr van der Spek apologised on behalf of the council for the inconvenience caused and said he sympathised with those whose property was lost or damaged.

The district’s five other council-owned camps – Falstone, Sailors Cutting, Loch Laird, Parsons Rock and Wildlife Reserve – were unaffected by the flooding and remain open.