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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Poverty Bay Catchment Board — River and Erosion Control

Poverty Bay Catchment Board
River and Erosion Control

The Poverty Bay Catchment Board was formed in 1945, with initial elective members as follows: P. W. Barrett and D. W. W. Williams (Waiapu County), H. J. Lougher, junior (Uawa), H. F. J. Tombleson and G. M. Newman (Waikohu), R. Graham, H. M. White and J. R. Hair (Cook County), and F. H. Forge and H. C. Hanes (Gisborne Borough). Various State Departments are represented on the board. Mr. Hair was elected chairman, and A. G. Hicks was appointed secretary. Bounded on the north by the watershed of Waiapu River, the board's district (2,097 square miles) includes the catchments of all the rivers to the south down to, and including, that of the Maraetaha stream. When A. D. Todd was appointed engineer in 1946, the board decided to have a detailed report made in connection with the Waipaoa River.

In 1875, wings, or spurs, were built at Ormond to check erosion. After the big flood in 1876 O. W. L. Bousfield advised the settlers that, if cuts were made at the worst bends, the river, in time, would make fresh bends. R. W. Holmes (State Engineer-in-Chief) and C. E. Armstrong (District Engineer), in a report in June, 1910, held that the river should be straightened at the Matawhero bend before a cut was put in at Tietjen's bend. These cuts had been recommended by Napier Bell, C.E., in 1892. C. D. Kennedy, C.E., approved the scheme in 1912.

The Poverty Bay Rivers Board was formed in 1912. It did not raise any loans, and it exercised its rating powers only sparingly, ceasing to levy any rate after 1935. In 1914 Mr. Laing-Meason, C.E. (Wellington) advised it that the Matawhero bend and Tietjen's bend should be eliminated, stopbanks built, etc., at a cost of £45,000. J. B. Thompson (State Land Drainage Engineer), who reported in 1918, upheld the contention put forward by Messrs. Holmes and Armstrong. When the board closed down in 1947 the settlers made gifts to W. C. Pilmer (the last chairman) and his daughters, Joan and Ray, in appreciation of the information service which they had provided concerning the state of the river when floods had threatened.

With the aid of a State grant a cut was opened in June, 1946, through a sandspit about two miles north of the estuary of the Waipaoa River. To encourage the old channel to silt up, and to assist the flow through the diversion, a training wall was built across part of the old river mouth. A comprehensive flood prevention scheme (prepared by Mr. Todd) was adopted by the Catchment Board in March, 1949. It provides for two cuts—one of 57 chains at the Matawhero main highway crossing to shorten the channel there by 2 miles 51 chains, and another of 45 chains at Tietjen's bend to shorten it at that point by 2 miles 10 chains—and for stopbanks parallel to the river for 16½ miles, starting at the mouth. The cost is estimated at £667,000. In the event of the State providing a subsidy of £3 to £1, the annual charges on a 30-year loan of £166,750 would amount to £8,760. The report was sent on to the Rivers Control Council for its approval.

Tree-planting for hillside stabilisation is an important section of the board's policy. One million acres will, it is estimated, require to be treated. It is planned to have stocks of young trees available by 1953, and page 420 to have between four and five million additional trees growing within the board's district by the close of the century.