Care needed on or near river beds

River level warning

by Mike Isle

Environment Canterbury is urging visitors and residents of Canterbury to check the weather conditions before they take vehicles near or onto major riverbeds, particularly the Waimakariri

They say that there have been several instances of people being taken by surprise this summer by rising river levels at popular recreation spots resulting in rescues.

Environment Canterbury river engineering lead, Shaun McCracken, said large rivers such as the Waimakariri could rise rapidly despite being no rainfall on the Canterbury Plains.

It is not uncommon for the water level to increase more than one metre in less than an hour and this could happen faster the further downstream you are.

“Hot, blustery nor-west winds in Canterbury generally mean it will be raining on the West Coast mountain ranges, with rain spilling over into the headwaters of the Waimakariri River,” McCracken said.

“After this, it can take up to 24 hours for the water levels to rise in the lower reaches of the river — and this can be a surprise to those who haven’t checked the weather and river information.”

McCracken encouraged everyone planning to access a major Canterbury river — including the Waimakariri, Rakaia, and Waiau Rivers — to check the weather ahead of their trip. River flow data can be found on Environment Canterbury’s website.