If we needed a reminder of how vital the Riverlink project is to Lower Hutt, Cyclone Gabrielle delivered it in February.
The flooding triggered by intense rainfall – well over 400mm in some parts of Tairāwhiti and Hawke’s Bay – engulfed homes and businesses and swept away infrastructure. Eleven people died. The properties of half the population of Wairoa were inundated when the Wairoa River breached stopbanks.
The warning from the regional council’s Manager Flood Protection, Graeme Campbell, in April was stark: If that cyclone had hit Lower Hutt, existing central city stopbanks would not have coped. Even with the higher, wider stopbanks planned under Riverlink, we might only have escaped a breach by the skin of our teeth.