Flooding has always been a feature of the Lower Wairarapa. Almost from the first day of their settlement in the district around 1840, the new inhabitants experienced its severity. They considered the richness of the land compensated for the inconvenience of flooding.

As settlement became denser, a Wairarapa River Board was set up in 1886 in a communal attempt to reduce flooding. The main responsibility was the maintenance of a reasonable outlet through the shingle bar which separates Lake Onoke from the open sea of Palliser Bay.

With the limited means available, the lake had to reach a high level before an opening would be successful. This meant that large areas of valuable land in the Lower Wairarapa were unproductive in those early days.

Over the years, in addition to lake opening, the River Board carried out isolated stopbanking works and erosion protection schemes to generally improve conditions for landowners.

The Wairarapa Catchment Board - formed in the 1940s - was a body which had sufficient authority and statutory responsibility to plan and implement a major flood protection scheme for the Lower Wairarapa Valley.

However, a comprehensive flood control scheme for the whole district was not realised until the 1960s. Several major schemes were proposed previously but had never come to fruition. The last of these was proposed in 1948 with the aim of soldier rehabilitation farm creation, but this did not proceed.

Many of the ideas from earlier proposals were incorporated in the Lower Wairarapa Valley Development Scheme which was successfully launched in 1960.

Updated August 9, 2022 at 11:17 AM

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