Flood-damaged Huntly property owner unhappy extra water released from dam

By Tamati Tiananga

Waikato resident Shane Nepe, who lives beside the banks of the Waikato River in Huntly, is claiming a release of water from the Karāpiro hydroelectric dam has caused flooding on his property, damaging a second dwelling and filling it with silt. 

"If they are responsible for the management of the river they need to do better and at the end of the day someone has to pay for the damage to my property," Nepe says.

He says there has been $30,000 worth of damage to the sleep-out and its contents.

Yesterday his entire property in Huntly was underwater. Nepe claims it was a result of water released from the Karapiro Dam into an already swollen Waikato River.   

"A couple of representatives from the Waikato District Council showed up today and from Civil Defence, who had a look around, and they agreed a lot of water had come up and receded," Nepe says. 

'A real challenge' 

In a statement the council says the discharge from Karāpiro over the past four days varied between approximately 250 cubic metres per second (cumecs) to a maximum of 583 cumecs.

"The maximum consented discharge is 600 cumecs. The level of water varies according to the volume released, and it is the volume that manages the safety of the Waikato hydro system."

In a statement, Mercury Energy says there have been days of significant rainfall, coming after months of record in-flows to the lake and catchment, "the highest inflows on record in the period since April 1, 2022". I

"It's a real challenge, and our thoughts are with those whose properties are impacted by the flooding, including this family."

Waikato Regional Council is the flood manager for the Waikato catchment. Mercury says it assists Waikato Regional Council in taking an all-of-river approach to managing the flood" with a focus on the wellbeing and safety of communities across the catchment". 


Mercury has a consented high-flow management plan that sets what flow it can discharge from Karāpiro Dam for flood management and dam safety. Over Sunday and Monday, Mercury began to discharge water at the dam to create storage through the hydro system in response to significant rainfall on already saturated catchments across the Waikato region. 

"This has helped to mitigate the risk of even more significant flooding through the Waikato and Waipā river catchments," Mercury says.

Nepe argues there needs to be a better response system and a better notification system to notify people there is a possibility that their property could be flooded.

A statement from Waikato Regional Council says it has a network of gauges set up along the Waikato River system to help track the flow and water level.

"These gauges are monitored 24/7 and provide our flood response team with real-time data."

Water management

"They are alarmed so, when the river reaches certain critical levels, varying actions are taken to inform people and manage the risk. That includes calling people directly, automated text alerts to people who have elected to be informed in that way, and the operation of floodgates or spillways. A dedicated team of people at Waikato Regional Council undertake these actions."

"Automated alerts were sent via text message to people who had subscribed to be warned, and phone calls we made to others. The first automated text message for people at this location in Huntly was sent at 5am on January 30 when the river level reached 9.8 metres above datum.

"Some people prefer text messages, while others elect to be phoned. This alerts property owners to the possibility that land may be inundated and to undertake any necessary action to protect their property, animals and themselves."

"In addition to the alerts, a media release was issued on January 29, which warned that the Karāpiro Dam was starting to discharge an increased volume of water. The release stated that it would result in a rise in water levels downstream on the Waikato River and some flooding on low-lying land was possible."