The Ashburton Guardian, COUNTY AGRCULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER. SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 1, 1879.
The Conference held at Rakaia last week shows that the public bodies in the district are in earnest in endeavoring to devise the best and cheapest scheme for battling with the storm water, which causes so much damage in various parts Of the County. All the different bodies in. terested w r ere represented ; and the discussion on the report, which had been sent in to the County Council by three engineers proved that the conference had fully digested the suggestions made by the experts. The remarks made on the report were both practical and indicative of a knowledge of the importance of the subject. The chairman, Mr Mackie, very properly made the other members of the conference aware of the powers granted to Counties and Road Boards under the Public Works Act of 187 G, by which authority is given to enter on any lands to obtain drainage areas, providing they are considered necessary for the safety and preservation of public roads. And he expressed an opinion that the works suggested by the engineers would prove so expensive as to render their construction almost impossible. Mr Stitt, who from his long residence and practical knowledge of the question, is entitled to be considered an authority on the matter, hit the right nail on the head when he stated that in works of this description it was wiser to expend a large sum on efficient and permanent work than to adopt a patchwork scheme—to effectually cure the evil at once, instead of having to take the chance of the Road Boards having to be liable to a continuous annual expenditure for repairing damages to roads by floods. We entirely coincide witn Mr Stitt’s remarks. Every chain of road formed, every acre of land ploughed, and every ditch and bank fence made, is a means of diverting water ; and although storm water on the plains is a phenomenon only seen on rare occasions, it is very destructive when it does come, and the natural course it takes is the ditches alongside the fences, or the formed roads as offering the best channel by which to obtain an outlet to the sea. As the fall of the country—although to the eye apparently flat—is at a considerable grade, the consequence is that roads and ditches are scoured away, and irreparable damage done.
So long as the original surface of the land, protected by a tough covering of tussock, is left in its natural state, the storm water spreads in all directions, and cannot do any damage, but every improvement made, which, of course, means the disturbance of the natural protection of tussock, causes a diversion of the flood water. The storm water is thus from point to point gradually collected into one large stream, generally on a line of road, and the road is converted into a canal, so that the public body under whose jurisdiction it may be, is put to an enormous and needless expense on the oc-
casion of every flood. Whereas the adoption of a well considered scheme, such as was submitted to the County Council, would effectually cure the evil at once and for ever.
Another question considered by tho Conference created some discussion. Tiro report recommended that seven acres or so should have the surface soil stripped down to the shingle at Methven, and the flood water turned into it, so that it should percolate through the gravel, and so lose itself. The Conferense argued out the merits of this idea at some length, and a considerable amount of valuable information was given on the matter by members who had noticed the effect of flood water in gravel pits. The success of an experiment like this is entirely dependent upon the nature of the gravel. If it is of a clayey or tough nature, the water could not possibly percolate through it, but, if loose, there is no doubt that an immense body of water would lose itself in such a largo area as seven acres. We have seen a ditch, twelve feet wide, and three feet deep, emptying into a gravel pitabout one eighth of an acre inextent, and the whole of the water absorbed ; ard from the nature of the shingle at Metheven, we are inclined to believe that if the stripping is done effectually—that is, that the loose shingle is laid bare—there cannot be a question about the success of it. As for the pit silting up, that is a mere trifle ; as the cost of removing the silt by plough and scoop work after each flood would be a mere bagatelle in comparison with the benefits to bo derived. Any one having the most superficial knowledge of the nature of the river bods, and subsoil of the plains, must bo aware that the shingle, when reached, is no more capable of holding water than a colander, and the idea of, a seven-acre sieve is at once cheap and effective. We must heartily congratulate the Conference on the almost unanimous result of their meeting. They have determined that the scheme shall be developed, and that the public roads in the country shall Ire reserved for their legitimate purpose as roads, and not as drainage areas, and we trust that by this time next year we shall not have the chance of recording the unwelcome news of miles of fencing, acres of grain, and long sections of roads being washed away for want of a proper scheme of drainage.