Flood resilience for Waiau township

Works are starting on the Waiau Uwha River to protect Waiau township from flooding.

Repairs and a new stopbank to protect Waiau township

Flooding of Mason River, 1993

Flooding of Mason River, 1993

The Waiau township has experienced flooding from both the Mason and Waiau Uwha Rivers many times over the years.

During the past century numerous ad-hoc stopbanks were constructed to protect the township, the earliest dating between 1907 and 1922 and built by the Waiau Riverside Protection Board.

Given the town’s vulnerability to flooding, an investigation was carried out in 2017 to identify the extent and depth of flooding that could occur in the township and surrounding areas.

Now with funding from central government’s climate resilience programme, this project will improve the level of flood protection to Waiau township through the remediation and strengthening of two existing stopbanks on Inland Road, and construction of a new stopbank which will border the eastern side of the town.

What’s in a name?

The alteration of the name from Waiau River to Waiau Uwha was proposed by Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura - one of 18 papatipu rūnanga (governance structures) of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu - and the new name was published in the New Zealand Gazette on 18 January 2018.

The river is culturally, spiritually and traditionally significant to Ngāi Tahu Whānui, and in particular to Ngāti Kuri hapū, appearing in several whanau manuscripts. A successful proposal was also made to alter Clarence River to Waiau Toa.

Waiau Uwha is the female river, coupled with Waiau Toa (the male river) and these two drifted away from each other. Waiau Uwha laments this separation and her tears swell the waters at the times when warm rains allow melted snow to enter the river.

Building climate resilience

Our rivers manager Leigh Griffiths says these works will help protect Waiau from flooding.

“This project is part of a 3-year $24 million programme across Canterbury to help communities build resilience to the effects of climate change. We need to be prepared to manage higher magnitude and more frequent flood events including more frequent high intensity rainfall events and higher peak river flows during large rainfall events.”

Partially funded from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s Kānoa – Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit, the Waiau township stopbank project has boosted local employment and significantly decreased local community cost, reducing flood vulnerability and helping to kick-start projects that would have otherwise taken decades to fund through current rating districts.