Ashhurst residents have watched in horror as hundreds of trees and huge chunks of Ashhurst Domain have been destroyed by the Manawatu River.
Last week’s floodwaters have swallowed a vehicle track and eroded the river bank deep into bush already damaged in two previous floods, threatening the walking track.
The devastation began just a day after Palmerston North mayor Grant Smith described the lack of action to protect the area as ‘‘disastrous’’.
Ashhurst resident Gary Tanner described the avoidable destruction as ‘‘criminal negligence’’.
‘‘The roads people are probably getting worried now. I feel I have made my point so many times. This could have been stopped 18 months ago.’’
Manawatu Gorge landowner and biodiversity project group member Tom Shannon told the city council’s planning and strategy committee on Monday the situation was ‘‘embarrassing’’.
‘‘We should be smarter than this.’’
Shannon said the former beach just upstream of the bridge of the Manawatu River had been one of the few places people could get down to the river.
‘‘As a public asset of quite high value, I would have thought protection of this precinct deserved more.’’
The changed course of the river was also veering close to the Ashhurst-side piers supporting the state highway bridge, and Smith was seeking an urgent meeting with the New Zealand Transport Agency to sort something out.
The problem with managing the area was that it was outside Horizons Regional Council’s lower Manawatu river management scheme, while the domain is owned by the Palmerston North City Council.
Horizons group manager for river management Ramon Strong said the city council had been told about the possible solutions and potential ramifications of doing nothing.
The regional council had also set $80,000 aside to help.
Ashhurst Domain caretaker Ken Pratt said the destruction could have been avoided.
He estimated at least 1000 trees and shrubs had been lost, and as many more were at risk.
He watched as one sizeable willow started to move, crashed into the river and was gone from sight within a minute and a half.
City Networks general manager Ray Swadel said staff were treating the matter with urgency and were preparing a report to go to the city council as soon as possible.
NZTA highway manager Ross I’Anson said the agency had been discussing solutions to the erosion problems with the city and regional councils, and would continue to do so.
Smith said he was extremely disappointed ‘‘the system’’ had not been able to sort the problem sooner.
‘‘There have been urgent meetings called, but it is disappointing we could not have got to this space earlier.’’
Ashhurst Domain caretaker Ken Pratt has noticed significant damage to land around the Manawatu river after last week’s flooding.