New Zealand, April 2017

Edgecumbe floods, 2017

Quick Statistics

10 Homes Destroyed

The effect of ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie continued to be felt as the system tracked across the Tasman Sea in the first days of April, bringing persistent heavy rain to the Bay of Plenty area on 4-5 April. Over 200 millimetres of rainfall was recorded in places.

Recorded rainfalls on 4 April included:

  • Whakatāne – 137 millimetres – wettest April day recorded since 1952
  • Te Puke, Western Bay of Plenty – 186 millimetres – wettest April day recorded since 1973.

The town of Edgecumbe was inundated when a stopbank (levee) on the Rangitāiki River failed on the morning of 6 April. It was estimated at the time that the flow in the river exceeded the design parameters of the stopbank by 30 per cent. Fast-flowing water entered the town, large parts of which lay below the level of the river. An order to evacuate the town followed, affecting some 580 households and a population of approximately 1,600 people.

Police and fire crews made house-to-house searches to ensure no one remained trapped, and boats were used to rescue residents in some areas. Resupply operations also had to be undertaken in the Whakatāne district by helicopter as up to a further 2,000 people were cut off by the floodwaters.

Damage to properties in the area affected by the floods was worsened by the speed of the water flowing through the breached Edgecumbe stopbank. Hundreds of properties were inundated; about 70 per cent of the town was said to have been affected. Of those, around 10 houses were assessed to be beyond repair. About 170 residents were able to return home by 14 April: as at May 2017, it was estimated that around 100 homes were still uninhabitable due to flood damage.



This incident was included in the Major Incidents Report 2016-17 (Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience, 2017). The report acknowledges the following sources:

MSN News 2017, 'About 10 Edgecumbe homes beyond repair,'
National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) 2017, 'Climate summary for April 2017,' At:
New Zealand Herald 2017, 'Stopping flooding is just the beginning following ex-cyclone Debbie's wrath, says Whakatane District mayor,' 7 April 2017. At:
Radio New Zealand 2017, 'Edgecumbe home-owners to get repair help,' 1 May 2017, At:
Radio New Zealand 2017, 'Sir Michael Cullen to head review over Edgecumbe flood,' 10 April 2017.