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Napier flood event unavoidable

FENZ report cover image 002

Two independent reports on the Napier flood in November 2020 found that the intensity and location of the rainfall resulted in unavoidable flooding. The overall response of agencies was good, but the reports also identified areas for improvement.

A hazard report on the floods event will be presented to the Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Group Joint Committee on Monday 30 August. It focuses on the cause and consequences of the event, including the inability to accurately predict where the rain would fall, and the inability of key assets to control drainage and flooding due to the event’s intensity.

A second report reviewing the multi-agency operational response to the flood identified areas to improve structures and processes. It found that overall, this was a good response underlined by the good relationships in Hawke's Bay between the responding agencies.

Rick Barker, Chairman of the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, welcomed the reports and commended the agencies involved in the event for their quick response and strong relationships.

“The Napier flood was an overwhelming event on many levels, taking the community by surprise. It took Napier city’s infrastructure well beyond its designed capacity. However, the response was quick, organised and effective, which is a testament to the strong network of civil defence relationships in Hawke’s Bay,” says Mr Barker.

“There is also room for improvement. In any major event, things go wrong so this is an opportunity to analyse what worked well and what didn’t, to bake in the lessons learned and be ready for any future events,” adds Mr Barker.

Napier City Council Mayor Kirsten Wise also supported the findings of both reports and wanted to ensure the people affected by the flooding were kept front of mind.

“The flooding affected the lives of many in our community, and some are still living with those impacts, so it’s important we learn lessons from this event,” says Mayor Wise.

“The reports provide the opportunities to act on the conclusions, including the potential to coordinate the operation of drainage assets maintained independently by Napier City and the Regional Council.”

Napier City’s drainage and flood control assets are designed to national standards. However, the intensity of November’s rainfall event meant that no urban stormwater system designed to these standards would have been able to operate to prevent the flooding that occurred. Power outages at a number of pump stations and debris in the stormwater network contributed to prolonging the event. 

“The intensity of the rainfall in November was far beyond the design capacity or capability of the Napier stormwater scheme. Our council, the network of civil defence and support agencies including Fire and Emergency NZ came together quickly to support our community at the time, and in the months that followed the flood,” says Ms Wise.

“We have an action plan and we are getting on with making changes through what we’ve learnt here.”

The hazard report also acknowledged the good initiative taken by Napier residents with little warning of the severity of the rain and subsequent flooding for the city, meaning the majority of evacuations were self-initiated. The community worked very well together in the wake of the flood, with many offers of help from all over the city and region.

“What we’ll continue to do now is work through the report’s conclusions, such as sharing information and systems between councils where it makes sense to do so, reviewing our asset plans and the complementary operation of our drainage and flood control assets with the Regional Council so that we’re in the best possible position ahead of any future event,” adds Mayor Wise.

Where to find the reports

The reports can both be accessed as attachments in the Agenda for the Meeting of the Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group Joint Committee on 30 August.

Napier Rainfall Event November 2020 Hazard Report             
FENZ Independent Operational Review – Napier Floods November 2020

Watch the meeting

The Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group Joint Committee will meet virtually at 2.30pm on Monday 30 August. A livestream of the video will play from the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HBRegionalCouncil.

Napier Flood Background

Over 240mm of rain fell in less than 20 hours in the Napier City area on 9 November 2020. The capacity of the city’s drainage network was overloaded and particularly felt in the suburbs of Maraenui, Napier South and Pirimai, where 117 homes were damaged beyond repair and many more suffered flood damage. Flooding was also experienced in parts of Marewa, Onekawa, the Napier CBD, Taradale and Tamatea, with localised landslides on Napier Hill. 35 family groups were provided with emergency accommodation at the Kennedy Park facility operated by Napier City Council, where a small number of family groups remained over six months later.

27 August 2021

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