Washed away

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE - JA­NINE RANKIN

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.’’

PHOTO: DAVID UN­WIN/FAIR­FAX NZ

Ash­hurst Do­main care­taker Ken Pratt has no­ticed sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to land around the Manawatu river af­ter last week’s flood­ing.

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