Evaluation of hillslope failure and community adjustment after extreme weather event, Waimarama 26-27 April, 2011
In 2011, Waimarama received 80% of its annual rainfall in 48 hours. This extreme event with a return period of >100 years caused saturated hillslopes to collapse forming 100s of shallow landslides in the Puhokio Valley. This study collected soil samples from 54 exposed slip scarp horizons for laboratory analysis of soil mechanical properties. Field measurements of slip and slope angles, length, width and depth to determine that 23,212m³ of sediment was volume lost, from the 54 landslides. The field and lab measurements were used to generate a coherent understanding of landsliding at Waimarama. Laboratory analysis for liquid limits water content showed a high of 88.5% to a low of 18.8% and plastic limit water content had a high of 51% in the A horizon (organics) and low of 16.1%. Specific gravity also indicated a high reading 1.74 g/cm³ with a low of 1.16 g/cm³. The A horizon was able to tolerate high levels of water content in most tests, while the B horizon was capable of coping with some increase in water content. The C horizon was only able to handle low volumes of water, and was the main initiator of regolith collapse. The laboratory results indicated high saturation levels within the horizons of weak lithology of marine regolith that over caps impervious marine bedrock. The main cause for hillslope collapse and exposure of multiple translational and debris flow landslides was extreme saturation. However, towards the height of the rainfall event a 4.5 magnitude earthquake was recorded with unknown collateral consequences. Most slip locations were found in the aspects of east, south-east, west, and north-west, and on slope angles 15 -25°. The study confirmed previous surveys that regolith depth 80-100cm on impervious sandstone, siltstone/mudstone, when saturated over lengthy wet spells or from extreme precipitation, will collapse. In addition to the physical geographic study a survey was included to record individual and family accounts of the weather phenomenon. A questionnaire was prepared with specific questions that required yes or no answers. These questions dealt with loss of buildings, loss of land, animals, financial loss and recovery, economic loss, insurance and mitigation plans. The most affected were farmers and the next affected were householders while the holiday park was the worst affected of small businesses. Insurance was a significant help in most recoveries. Land rehabilitation was mitigated with new plantings and some aerial sowing, otherwise many slips were left to revegetate naturally. Economic and financial loss was severe for most farmers, due to pasture loss and animal relocation. Extreme rainfall causes slips that affect humans, but they can be mitigated. The Waimarama event is one of many events that can happen countrywide, the results can be a disastrous loss of personal, economic and financial assets, loss of infrastructure, including roading, bridges and communication. These are factors that many people and communities only realise when it happens to them. Mitigation against such events might include adequate insurance and knowledge of what to do, and where to go should an event happen unexpectedly and without warning.