A project to work on flood protection infrastructure in Whirinaki to guard against any future Esk River breaches is being sponsored by Pan Pac, Transpower and Contact Energy.

Whirinaki, north of the Esk River mouth and close to the Whirinaki power station and PanPac site were impacted when the Esk River overtopped and floodwaters to the north cut off the road in Tangoio.

Some homes were flooded with more than 1.2 meters of water, and the Whirinaki community were completely isolated for days in the aftermath of the cyclone. 

Pan Pac is presently closed as clean-up proceeds on its site.

The project will protect the three sponsor businesses as well as Whirinaki and North Shore Road residents and is aimed at getting back to pre-flood levels of operations and give confidence to insurers. It won’t include a solution for the wider Esk Valley.

Hastings District Locality Plan states that project management, authorisation and conceptual design will be delivered by the end of 2023, providing a business case for increased flood protection infrastructure for the area, which is a significant source of local employment.

Planners and river engineers have been engaged to survey and assess the area to help identify flood protection options. Any solution will also consider the needs of residents. BayBuzz understands that residents impacted by the flood are supportive of the project.

The plan has been included in the Napier City Council and Hastings District Council locality plans, which ensures the two councils will work together for the benefit of communities that sit inside the Hastings District boundary but are closely associated with Napier.

A Pan Pac spokeswoman said the project team would regularly engage with representatives for Whirinaki residents, mana whenua, and landowners near the Esk River mouth to ensure there is good two-way communication throughout the project with frequent updates to the community.

The cost for the analysis and options is estimated as $675,400 in Napier’s Locality Plan, but the cost of the solution will be laid out in future iterations of the locality plan.

According to Hastings District Locality Plan the timeframe for implementation was late 2023.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council said it was supportive and would be working with the project team in the coming months.

Survey results were due back in the next few weeks. BayBuzz will update readers with more detail when available.

Public interest journalism funded by New Zealand on Air.


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  1. We are very fortunate that Pan Pac are going to safeguard their massive plant from future flooding as they rebuild this vital link. Good luck Pan Pac. The article mentions the Whirinaki Power Station. I thought that the diesel-powered generator for the power station was relocated to Auckland years ago. A demonstration of resilience would be for one of the electricity giants to replace the generation capability in my mind. I imagine that a lot of the infrastructure would still be there but I also assume that it maybe carbon heavy.

    1. Selwyn, you are correct – the Whirinaki power station is now a Gas Turbine (Jet Engines, Pratt and Whitney 787) – from memory six gas turbines running three alternators. A station that is able to be bought online in minutes when peak demand occurs.

  2. Saw a recent river/wetland design where part of a river was divided and part sent in a new direction. Perhaps that’s a way for replenishing the Upper Ahuriri Estuary where the Esk River used to run into?

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