The ‘secure’ wall of the dam was, according to locals, may not have been so secure.
According to Deborah Mainwaring – a local resident who lives near the wall holding back the Edgecumbe river – the local council had been contacted and advised of the unusual activities on the wall over the last days, weeks and years.
Mrs. Mainwaring says that last Wednesday, the night before the Rangitaiki River breached, she noticed it [the water] getting high and the concrete wall on College Rd, where she has lived for 30 years, was starting to crack.
Mrs. Mainwaring told The Herald. “We were being told it will all be alright, and actually no one was at the wheel. I mean Civil Defence was hopeless, I’m really ashamed of Civil Defence and how they behaved. And I’m ashamed of the [Bay of Plenty] Regional Council, for all the years that we have told them that the wall is going to be about as useful as a mural wall.”
This was also backed up by local volunteer firemen.
In the hours leading up to the catastrophic break, she noticed a definite change, with water coming through cracks in the wall.
Fortunately, Mrs. Mainwaring prepared her own evacuation kits the night before and called to her elderly neighbor to evacuate also, which they quickly did.
The local authorities that guide maintenance services of the Bay of Plenty, the Whakatane District Council, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Civil Defense, had all been contacted and advised of the potential for the Rangitaiki River to breach.
As is often the case with authorities, the chain of command to investigate queries and concerns of this nature takes time, as Whakatane District Mayor Tony Bonne observed.