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40th anniversary of 1984 Southland floods

The Southland App

23 January 2024, 11:27 PM

40th anniversary of 1984 Southland floodsThe Otauatu Stream in full flood in 1984. Photo: ilibrary/Peter Gutsell

This week (24 Jan) marks the 40th anniversary of the infamous 1984 Southland floods, which saw thousands of people evacuated from their homes, thousands of stock lost and almost 1000 buildings damaged.


Around 4000 people in Invercargill, Otautau and Tuatapere were evacuated under a state of emergency that would last for a month and see 1,200 homes deemed unliveable and 5,000 tonnes of personal belongings dumped.


Farmers faired no better with estimated losses of 12,000 sheep, 100 cattle, 334 pigs, 75 deer, as well as 170 kilometres of fences and 52 farm bridges.



Insurance claims following the floods finally topped out at $55 million ($168 million in todays values).


The disaster lead to a major redesign and investment into the provinence's flood protection infrastructure, spearheaded by the then head of the Southland Regional Council, Neil McMillian.


The upgrades proved largely successful and has now protected people and property from floods of similar magnitutes for the last four decades.



Environment Southland Chairman Nicol Horrell said the floods in September 2023 were another reminder of how important it was to maintain and invest in Murihiku Southland's flood protection network. 


“Environment Southland has been working on Government-co-funded climate resilience projects to upgrade some of the flood protection network, to help ensure towns in our region are more resilient to the challenges of a changing climate,” he said.


The Waihōpai River (true left) stop bank was currently being upgraded to meet the increase in extreme sea levels in the Kōreti New River Estuary, while the new Stead Street Pump Station also formed an integral part of Invercargill’s flood protection scheme to protect the area from inundation for the next 50 years.



Construction of a new stop bank along Ontario and Toronto Streets in Gore has been completed, and flood protection work in Wyndham and Mataura is nearing completion. 


These projects, and others including the development of a 30-year Infrastructure Strategy, will build greater resiliency in the face of climate change for our communities and critical infrastructure, Horrell said.


Further investment is needed now and for the future because parts of our flood protection network are at least 30 years old, and more frequent and intense weather events are putting it under pressure.



This investment is a priority for our Long-term Plan, which we’ll be consulting on soon. 


CLICK HERE for more information and resourses.


CLICK HERE to learn about being prepared.



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