Wheel alignment

Monday 6 February 2023

The shape of things to come

Since we returned from a holiday in Australia just before New Year, the north island of New Zealand has copped 3 biblical-sized storms causing widespread flooding, damage from landslides and sadly, loss of life.  Australia's east coast has been similarly affected in previous years.   The La Nina weather phenomenon has added to the problem by channeling "atmospheric rivers" of moisture from the already-warm oceans in the tropics to our shores.

We live on the Coromandel Peninsula east of Auckland.  It has a relatively small population and is noted for its natural beauty with stunning beaches and an inland mountain range.  The 200-odd km long road which runs along the edge of the peninsula, State Highway 25;  is also known as the Coro Loop.  It's a paradise for motorcyclists - twisty and technical.

The Coromandel Peninsula

As well as flooding, the Coromandel roads are also subject to landslides and we've been cut off from the rest of the north island for a day or two each time a big storm hits.  A few years ago, it was for 2 weeks.  The storm a few days ago wreaked absolute havoc on both Auckland and Coromandel.  From memory, about 300mm of rain fell in the Coromandel area during the first week of February, breaking all kinds of records.

The most serious road damage was to the road at the southern end of the peninsula which essentially runs west-east between Kopu and Hikuai, south of Tairua.  It also happens to be the main route for both commercial traffic and the public needing access to and from the eastern seaboard.  Here's a photo of the damage - the whole hillside has slipped into the valley.  Deciding how to repair or divert the road is not going to have an easy solution and will take months at the very least.  The significantly longer, slow alternative access route will carry a heavy economic and social cost.

State Highway 25A - Coromandel Peninsula (NZTA)
The landslide on SH 25A gets bigger (NZTA)

Although I rode this road regularly on my motorcycle, we don't need to travel on it to get off the peninsula, using the western coast road to Thames instead.  This is where everything recently turned to custard!

The western road runs along the shoreline of the Firth of Thames with the mountains rising directly from the road edge in many places.  We regularly get small slips in wet weather but they normally don't have a major impact.  This time, it was a beauty at Ruamahanga Bay which cut us off for several days.   Here are the photos and a video link showing part of the landslide.  The traffic was a bit close to it for my liking!

Landslide blocking the Thames-Coromandel Coast Road 
(Snapper Express Fishing Charters)

Clearing the debris (press photo)

Rockfall live (NZ Herald)

The cleanup crews did a fantastic job which is just as well as we had to pick up my sister in law at Auckland airport.  The only alternative route via the east of the peninsula would have stretched the travel time from 2.5 hours to 4.5 hours! 

Our property is on a hill overlooking Coromandel Harbour.  We're safe from flooding but there's probably a small risk of us sliding into the harbour as part of a landslide.  In the coming years but hopefully not in our lifetime, we stand a good chance of being cut off from the village because the causeway leading to the property isn't much above sea level.  Coastal erosion is a world wide issue.  Sadly, there aren't any strong indications of urgency by any of the world governments in taking the tough but necessary steps to address the matter.  It's a bitter enough pill to swallow for my generation but the future impact on our kids and grandkids doesn't bear contemplating.  Let's hope that they have a better focus on ensuring a good future for mankind than our current leaders do. 

Oh, and watch this space...... there's another tropical cyclone brewing in the South Pacific which might drift down this way in about a week.  In the meantime, we'll look forward to a few days of sun!


  1. Hello Geoff, thanks for dropping me a line about your well-being. Flooding and landslides seem to be the new normal, also in Germany. We live in an area that is prone to be flooded, we don't get insurance, so what's damaged or lost will remain lost or paid on our own account. Anyway, I am glad that you guys haven't been affected directly and hopefully this will stay that way. All the best and keeping fingers crossed, SonjaM

  2. Hi Sonja,
    It was very kind of you to check on us! Wow, so you can't get insurance. I've often wondered how people living in wildfire areas or Tornado Alley in the US get on but I never considered Germany. I would imagine that our property insurance will be taking a hike now. We all need a little luck in our lives right now!

  3. Glad to hear that you haven't been too badly affected Geoff. At least you've got the boat eh?

    1. Thanks Andrew, so far we've been much better off than some which we're truly grateful for. We might need the boat for shopping if this continues 😉. There's a Brits at the Beach classic car rally in Whangamata this weekend. I'm just hoping that I don't get trapped bearing in mind the weather forecast!

  4. Isn’t nature wonderful?🙄 It is humbling to see the power unleashed - in our cases by prolific rainfall evens - and in the last few days the terrible earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. I guess they have always happened but because there are so many more of us these days they are bound to effect more people.
    As for TC Gabriel, I’m not wishing it upon you guys but I am flying up and down the QLD coast all week and I would be happy for it to go the way of the tracking models.😬
    Anyway, glad to hear you folks are safe and well. Being cut off for a bit is the price to pay I guess for living in such a picturesque location. Cheers. Dave.

  5. That looks pretty bad Geoff. Glad you avoided it. Meanwhile on this side of the world, it has been incredibly mild so far this winter. We even noticed a few Daffodills already in flower at the weekend! The seasons as well as the flowers are seriously messed up it would seem. :-(

    1. Thanks - let's see if we can avoid TC Gabriel due early next week! Trouble is, the ground is still sodden so flooding and landslides are more likely. Daffodils already! Yep, the seasons are becoming less distinct all right. We didn't have any frosts last winter at our place, just a lot of rain!

  6. Hi Dave!
    Yep, no-one seems to be safe from Mother Nature now. It would be nice for both of us if Gabriel tracks way to the eastern Pacific but it strongly looks like we'll be in the firing line again. Despite all the problems, we still love the relative isolation of where we live. Might have to review that when we get REALLY old but will park that idea for a while 😊. Take care.


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