Memories flood back

01:53, Feb 13 2014
DECADE ON: The Makino Stream in Feilding township.

Ten years ago this Saturday Manawatu residents went to sleep to the sound of rain on the roof. It was heavy.

About 250 millimetres fell in 24 hours, but no-one expected the destruction they would wake to.

Manawatu District Mayor at the time, and current Rangitikei MP, Ian McKelvie was in Turangi when called to return home in the early hours of the Monday morning.

"When I got to Feilding there was water everywhere, we had to wade into the council building."

The Makino and Kiwitea streams burst their banks and flooded much of Feilding while there was widespread flooding throughout the wider region. A state of emergency was declared at 5am on February 16.

Water spread 200 metres either side of the Makino stream and much of Feilding's central business district was under water. Shops and homes had flooded, bridges had come down through the district and many residents were left stranded. About 50 businesses and 75 homes were flooded. Kimbolton Rd, running through the middle of town, resembled a river.


In the early hours of that morning Woodfall Lodge Rest Home was evacuated, its 150 residents taken to the racecourse stadium. Others would follow.

All bridges into the town were closed as people became isolated.

Horizons Regional Council labelled it the biggest flood in living memory and February 16, 2004 has since been deemed a one in one- hundred-year flood.

"It was a pretty amazing sight," Mr McKelvie recalls.

While many communities were affected, few were for as long as Kopane School. Neal Duff was relief principal at the time.

"About 200m before the school there was just a flood of water everywhere," he said.

The school was immediately closed and the 17 pupils stayed home. Some wondered if they would ever return.

"At the school, it was just chaos. I remember just wading through the classrooms. Funnily enough the swimming pool was under water."

The school hall had buckled and moved off its foundations.

"Some thought this was the flooding that would close the school."

The school moved down the road to Highden Manor for the coming months before the government announced a $200,000 rebuild.

Despite the disruption, Mr Duff said the children coped well.

"The kids thought it was exciting, there was a sense of excitement."

The school now has a role of 45, with families attracted to its modern facilities.

"Funnily enough, I've often thought the flood saved this school," Mr Duff said.

Similarly, Mr McKelvie said the flood has not all been bad and put some of the district's current boom down to the devastation caused that week.

"It really galvanised the Manawatu District. I think it gave us a whole lot of opportunity."

He said it brought some projects forward and encouraged business and council to be proactive.

Feilding Herald