Rotorua's Paradise Valley

Rotorua's Paradise Valley

Sarah's paradise


Sarah Thomson is passionate about positive change but knows she can’t do it on her own.
Just months after moving to her new property in Rotorua’s Paradise Valley, a catastrophic rain event struck the area in March 2017, flooding the area with 120ml of rain in a short space of time. The aftermath included washed out driveways, trees down, culverts filled with debris and even cars floating at a nearby tourism attraction, a wildlife park.
Creating an almost tidal wave effect, Sarah’s driveway culverts were blocked with debris leading to her driveway being fully washed away – so much so that almost three years on she still had to use her 4WD vehicle to get out through an alternative exit until recently when a driveway and bridge was installed at incredible time, effort and stress on all parties involved.
The silver lining to the event was the growth in strength and determination of the members of the Paradise Valley Catchment Group, formed just a few months before the flood event. The group members share a common goal to create action on the ground within their catchment and ensure any future flood event doesn’t have the chance to cause the damage and destruction the past one did.
Backed by NZ Landcare Trust Bay of Plenty Regional Coordinator Janie Stevenson, the group was formed over members’ joint concerns ranging from flooding and stream bank erosion to water quality in the Upper Ngongotahā catchment. Sarah was voted in as chair.

Rotorua's Paradise Valley

“We needed to be part of the solution,” Sarah says.
“I was new to the area and didn’t know its full history, or many of the people, but I was willing to step forward and be part of a community effort.”
“It had to be about engaging everyone positively – and that included the local councils.”
The group worked hard to build a community presence and show that they could be constructive – something Sarah says is imperative when dealing with local agencies and organisations, as well as other community members.
“Predominantly, we were a group that could work together to get things done. We had such great support to get started by Janie, from the NZ Landcare Trust which helped immensely – just having someone who knew what to do, how to do it, and could give great advice. She was someone who had “the how”.”
Since the Ngongotahā floods, Sarah Thomson was nominated to join the Ngongotahā Community Reference Group which was established as a result of both the Regional and District councils collaborating on a suite of solutions to mitigate flooding in the area and she is part of the Upper Catchment Workstream in that group.
Currently, one of the main focuses of the Paradise Valley Catchment Group is a water monitoring programme which involves lab tested water samples and citizen science testing from several sites in the catchment.

They are also looking at detainment bunds in the catchment as a way to slow the flow of water during heavy rain events and mitigate sediment washing into the streams. This is one of the aforementioned suite of solutions to mitigate future flooding. Trees and debris have recently been removed from the stream to prevent blockages causing damage during future rain events.
“For us, it is about getting together, planning for the future and getting work underway. It is about doing it as a community; and having clarity around who has what role to play in regards to organisations, councils, agencies and ourselves.”
“It’s a work in progress and we are just grateful to have had the support and guidance of NZ Landcare Trust in getting off the ground.”

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