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Floods are New Zealand’s number one hazard in terms of frequency, losses and declared civil defence emergencies.

What is a flood?

Floods can occur as a result of storms and heavy rain which cause rivers to overflow their banks. They can also be caused by high tides.

What damage can floods do?

Floodwaters can destroy the land, washing away roads, bridges, railway tracks and buildings. Crops can be ruined and livestock drowned.

Lives are also at risk, particularly in flash floods when the water has risen very quickly. Fast-flowing, deep water filled with debris like tree branches and sheets of iron can be very dangerous to people.

After a flood there can be a lot of damage and pollution to clean up. It may take months or years to recover.











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The Fitzherbert stopbank, in Palmerston North, did its job during a storm in 2004. Image: Civil Defence.

Flooding in Invercargill, January 1984. Image: Civil Defence.

A child wades through flood waters. Is this a safe thing to do? Image: Civil Defence.

Parents survey the damage after a flood at Kopane School, Manawatu in 2004. Image: Civil Defence.