Slip­ping away slowly

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD MAYS

Ash­hurst is bear­ing the brunt of Manawatu’s weather-re­lated mis­for­tunes. First was another ma­jor Manawatu Gorge slip di­vert­ing heavy traf­fic through vil­lage subur­ban streets. Then came the des­e­cra­tion of its crown jewel as the Manawatu River gouged out a large chunk of the Ash­hurst Do­main. It could cost up to $1.6 mil­lion to pro­tect the do­main from be­ing fur­ther rav­aged by the river.

Ash­hurst is bear­ing the brunt of Manawatu’s weather-re­lated mis­for­tunes.

First was another ma­jor Manawatu Gorge slip di­vert­ing heavy traf­fic through vil­lage subur­ban streets. Then came the des­e­cra­tion of its crown jewel as the Manawatu River gouged out a large chunk of the Ash­hurst Do­main.

It could cost up to $1.6 mil­lion to pro­tect the do­main from be­ing fur­ther rav­aged by the river.

Work had be­gun shor­ing up the do­main river­bank be­fore con­tin­ued scour­ing added to the wider re­gion’s trans­port woes.

If a cen­tury old 30-40 me­tre high pine, es­ti­mated weight 50 tonnes, and its 30 tonne mate fall into the river, Ash­hurst Do­main care­taker Ken Pratt reck­oned they had the po­ten­tial to dam­age the piles of the nearby SH3 bridge.

The tree now had many of its roots ex­posed out over the wa­ter, while the trunk was only a cou­ple of me­tres from the lip of the eroded bank.

The lo­cal ecol­ogy had suf­fered too.

Pratt es­ti­mated that in to­tal some 120,000 cu­bic me­tres of river­bank, a curved swathe 400 me­tres or so long, 75 me­tres wide and four me­tres deep in parts, had been gouged out.

‘‘Two thou­sand na­tive trees, in­clud­ing 60 year-old to­tara, gi­ant punga, nikau and pukatea have all gone.’’

A sim­i­lar num­ber of wil­lows had also been swept away, along with the river beach and its ac­cess, bush tracks, a carpark, a stormwa­ter surge cham­ber and as­so­ci­ated pipes, and a chunk of the river­bank shared path.

Pratt pointed out an area of nearby wet­land he said is home to the high­est pop­u­la­tion of mud­fish so far found in Manawatu. If the river comes any closer, it will drain and the habi­tat will be lost.

The pity of it, he said, was that the dan­ger had been no­ti­fied two years ago, and could have been fixed then rel­a­tively cheaply and with min­i­mal dam­age to the park.

Now city and Hori­zons ratepay­ers are look­ing at a hefty bill.

The city coun­cil will be spend­ing up to $70,000 on the emer­gency works, and had voted a fur­ther $500,000 as a one-third share with Hori­zons and the NZ Trans­port Agency on more per­ma­nent re­pairs.

The tem­po­rary fix in­volved chang­ing the river’s ac­tive chan­nel by mov­ing spoil from a silt and gravel is­land in the cen­tre of the ex­tended riverbed, across to the threat­ened west bank.

PHOTO: MUR­RAY WIL­SON/ FAIR­FAX NZ.

Work has be­gun to fix the ero­sion at Ash­hurst Do­main.

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