Inhabitants of Avondale were repeatedly trapped by flooding

Heidi Oudemans heaved a sigh of disdain on Saturday as she watched the rain begin to pour outside her home and knew exactly what was coming.

For more than a decade, Oudemans has watched the water rise in front of her home in Christchurch, potentially trapping her and 40 other homes on her street for days.

It happens every time it rains and the locals have had enough.

Oudemans lives on Tenby Pl, a short no exit suburban road in Avondale that is adjacent to a local secondary school and just off the bustling Wainoni Rd.

“If it doesn’t stop raining for a day or two, it’s going to be Lake Michigan out there,” Oudemans said The New Zealand Herald.

“It’s terrible, no one can get out and no one can get in.”

The street has always been low-lying and before the 2011 earthquake, the ground became soft and wet when it rained. Since the earthquake, rainfall has caused the nearby River Avon to rise and with nowhere to go, the water will rise in surrounding streets.

Residents have reported this Herald City workers cleaned three nearby sewers last week, something a local resident said “hadn’t been done for ages.”

Despite this work, ongoing drainage problems are believed to still cause flooding problems.

“Last night I looked out my bedroom window and there was a large puddle that was not there before, it just gets worse and worse,” said Oudemans.

A number of elderly residents live on Tenby Pl, a woman in her 80s is forced to ask her grandson for support in every downpour because her old-timer can’t go through the water.

Another resident, who runs a mechanic’s business out of his garage, has to park cars on different streets in case of rains causing flooding and damaging his client’s vehicles.

The Herald also understands that an elderly resident once called an ambulance – only for flooding to prevent the emergency vehicle from reaching her home.

Six months ago, Oudemans bought a car with four-wheel drive, because their previous family car could not go through the water.

“Most of us have had to buy one,” she said, referring to her neighbors.

‘We can’t do anything else. We came back from a weekend in the south once and our car was stuck at the mailbox, we had to leave it until the rain had died down.”

Floods will normally rise to knee height, Oudemans said she can’t cross the street in rubber boots without getting her feet wet.

Last week the water stood for four days straight as the rain continued to fall, it took 20 hours for someone to get their car out of their driveway.

Elizabeth Forbes lives on the corner of Tenby Pl. She said the flood becomes “deceptively deep” when the water has nowhere to go.

Sometimes she parked her car on a neighboring road to avoid a boggy, boggy commute.

“It’s really ridiculous,” Forbes said.

“Now I have things I’d like to do, but they’re put on hold because you can’t get anywhere.”

The ward’s councilman, Kelly Barber, was first made aware of the matter shortly after being elected to office in October last year. He recently made a trek to the street after being warned about the latest flood.

“I couldn’t believe it – I was stunned,” he said.

Barber arranged a public meeting a month ago, where about 15 residents attended and spoke to a Three Waters official about their frustrations at the lack of action.

According to the alderman, council employees later told residents that they were previously aware of the problem, which Barber says does not change the fact that there has been no adequate change.

“Even before the earthquakes, it was still a problem,” he said.

“Parts of Christchurch have sunk about half a meter after the earthquakes, so drainage is more often affected by the combination of rainfall and high tides. And people can’t live like that.”

Thirty-five residents of Tenby Pl and nearby Newport St – which is also flooding – have formed a community group called NTAG, the Newport and Tenby Action Group.

They will defend their position at a meeting of Christchurch City Council on Wednesday, where a report on surface flooding in the city will be presented by staff.

Tenby Pl and Newport St will be one of the areas identified in the report.