The Waitotora River's peak level after the weekend's rainstorm was less than two metres lower than the peak recorded during the 2004 floods that devastated Waitotora township.
The Taranaki Regional Council says river clearance work that began after the 2004 floods proved its worth at the weekend.
The river level inland at Rimunui Station peaked at 11.66 metres at 11.45pm on Sunday (January 23). It had been at just 55cm before the rain started. This peak flow took seven to eight hours to reach the township near the coast, but no major problems were reported there.
In 2004, the river peaked at 13.49 metres, causing widespread flooding in the lower valley. At the township, little escaped the floodwaters, with 41 of the 47 houses hit and 14 later condemned.
"We started a long-term channel clearance programme after the 2004 floods, because the obstruction caused by willows added to the turbulence of the flow and the severity of the flooding," says the Taranaki Regional Council's Director-Operations, Rob Phillips.
"Clearing the willows has increased the capacity of the channel so it can better cope with flood flows. Without this work, flood levels would have been higher for a longer period of time.
"We're very pleased the weekend's peak flow was contained within the river channel at the township, though some areas were inundated further up the valley and access was affected."
Mr Phillips says rainfall in the Waitotara catchment was on a par with that on Mount Taranaki over the weekend.
"In the 36 hours to midday Monday, 203.5mm was recorded at Pohokura Saddle in the headwaters of the Waitotara, 166.5mm at Rimunui Station and 127mm at Ngutuwera. Dawson Falls got 279 mm and North Egmont got 172mm in the same period."
As well as clearing the river channel, the Council has also been working with landowners in the Waitotara catchment, encouraging and supporting measures to prevent slips and erosion and thus reduce silt levels in rivers and streams. Mr Phillips says this work will have long-term benefit in the catchment.