Floods on the Coromandel Peninsula this winter have highlighted the vulnerability of the area’s communities to damage from rivers.
This week’s Environment Waikato Operations Committee heard that a project team including Thames Coromandel District Council, Environment Waikato and other agencies was working on a range of actions to resolve river catchment and hazard management issues in the area.
Natural Hazards and Emergency Management Programme Manager Brendan Morris said the Coromandel had dozens of rivers and hundreds of streams with steep, short catchments. The area was subject to high rainfall and intense localised storms. Historically, river works had been done on a very limited and ad hoc basis, and there were no significant funding provisions for either local authority or Environment Waikato to assist landowners and to support physical river maintenance works on the peninsula.
Dozens of rivers and streams were eroding and recent floods had blocked and filled channels in many places. Recent floods had greatly heightened public interest and concern about river management in the area.
Environment Waikato currently gave river and stream management advice to landowners and the District Council, with a greatly increased workload since the June floods. It also maintained the Thames streams and Tararu Stream through the Waihou Valley Scheme, and had involvement with TCDC on hazard management plans in several places.
Issues included significant river and stream bank erosion, steep rivers and catchment systems prone to flash flooding, substantial sediment and debris in major floods, significant urban development in flat, low lying deltas and flood plains, new development pressures, expectations of a natural environment and no co-ordination or funding for river maintenance.
Asset Management Group Manager Scott Fowlds said it was important to identify specific risk areas on the Thames Coast and take a strategic approach to risk reduction options, which could include river, catchment and land use management, property purchase, warning systems and community response.
Engineering options alone would not be successful, and a range of actions were needed.
“This is a major issue for the two councils and it is important to work with the community. The recent floods have changed the focus and potential scope of this work. Flooding has identified the need to raise the priority of this work and deal with issues especially on the Thames Coast.”
A joint approach is to be set up to deal with river management issues in partnership with Thames Coromandel District Council and set a clear strategy. Joint outcomes required by both councils need to be determined.