Totara flooding causes probed

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Increases in the size of the Deborah acquifer, which covers an area from Airedale to Waianakurua, is contributing to flooding events in the Totara area, says Otago Regional Council chief executive Peter Bodeker.

Mr Bodeker said yesterday that the flooding appeared to have been caused by natural means rather than run-off from irrigation.

“It may well be exacerbated by irrigation upstream but it seems the natural acquifer, the Deborah acquifer, is increasing in size causing flooding events,” he said.

“The discussion we’re having with the community is how can it be resolved and to what extent does the community want it to be resolved.”

Mr Bodeker and Dr Gavin Palmer (ORC director engineering, hazards and science) were in Oamaru on Monday to meet with Totara farmers, Maheno ORC councillor Doug Brown and representatives of the Waitaki District Council.

“We had a good discussion with a small number of farmers involved and what we’ve said is that we will go away and work on a high level options paper in conjunction with the WDC and work with them to see how we can progress,” Mr Bodeker said.

Totara farmer Jock Webster, who initiated a petition signed by flood-affected people, has been pumping water from the ponds on Springfield Rd (which is now clear) and said drainage options were discussed on Monday. These ranged from having a community scheme which would be rated separately to schemes that would address the needs of individual property owners.

Mr Webster said water pooling in the Totara area was an old problem because the underlying clay was impervious and had led to drains being put in many years ago.

These drains had since become blocked, he said.

“The level of the Deborah acquifer is higher than it has ever been before.

“When the soil profile has got water in it, the water has to go somewhere.”

Waitaki District Council assets committee chairman Bill Kingan said regional council representatives explained using graphs relative to the Totara area, how groundwater level was rising as rainfall was decreasing.

Mr Kingan said Totara had very good soil which was worth protecting.

By LINDA MCCARTHY

PHOTO: Flooding in the Totara area.