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Published: 2004-09-28 00:00:00

Environment Waikato has been granted resource consents to undertake flood protection works on the Tongariro River and flood plain.

In a hearing before Commissioners and Taupo District Council’s Hearing Committee the Regional Council was granted permission to take up to 15,000 cubic metres of gravel, remove debris and vegetation, disturb soil and the riverbed in constructing and maintaining stop banks, as well as divert water using stopbanks and floodwalls near Turangi township.

A series of works on the lower Tongariro River is proposed to enhance and restore the river environment and reduce the risk from flooding and bank erosion. Ten submissions were lodged with Taupo District Council and 32 with Environment Waikato.

The Committee heard that Environment Waikato began the process in the mid 1990s. Following extensive consultation with the community, a Natural Hazard Management Plan Discussion Document was released in February 1999, setting out a framework of management options for the lower Tongariro River.

Environment Waikato worked closely with the Tongariro River tangata whenua hapu Ngati Turangitukua to develop a package of works that would restore and enhance the Tongariro River and protect Turangi residents from a one in 100 year flood.

Consent for river enhancement works was granted by both Taupo District Council and Waikato Regional Council in March 2004. While the Council was consulting with potentially affected parties about the proposed works, a large flood In February caused the Tongariro River to rise and burst its banks, with severe bank erosion along the river. The structural integrity of some of the existing erosion protection works and control structures was compromised, and vegetation and gravel was deposited in the river channel.

Damaged erosion protection works and flood control structures were repaired, and a stopbank constructed between Tongariro Lodge and the Tongariro River under emergency provisions of the Resource Management Act 1991. Retrospective consent was sought for this aspect of the works.

Environment Waikato’s Asset Management Group said the main river channel flowing through Turangi needed to be stabilised, excess gravel removed and the 100 year design flow constrained within the main channel using stopbanks and floodwalls.

Submitters had concerns about the order of the proposed works, and if stopbanks were needed, they should be located to maintain resident’s privacy and views. A representative for Advocates for the Tongariro River said many features of the proposal were favourable but that the works proposed were “too little, too late and too cheap”. The Advocates were not against intervention, but questioned whether the proposed works would achieve the desired outcome.

They did not want a canal created, as the river was one of the best rainbow trout streams in the world. Although active river management was needed to maintain its health, this could be achieved through development of a River Management Plan. Alternative funding should be found to do the works and Central Government should contribute, the group said.

Granting the consents, Taupo District Council said it supported and endorsed the future holistic management of the Tongariro River and the Lake Taupo catchment by Environment Waikato, through appropriate mechanisms such as the Tongariro River Management Forum and comprehensive river and lake catchment management plans.

The proposed flood protection works were consistent with the objectives and policies of both the Taupo transitional and proposed district plans and were designed to fit within the existing riverside environment, blending with the amenity of the area. Temporary construction effects would be managed through comprehensive management plans and conditions of consent that maintain amenities to surrounding residential areas.