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Published: 2004-04-19 00:00:00

Thames-Coromandel District Council and Environment Waikato have jointly asked the Government to help pay for urgent flood protection work on the Thames Coast.

The two councils have been working together since the ‘weather bomb’ in June 2002, which caused significant flood damage and the loss of one life, to develop a plan to protect the people and property along the coast. Environment Waikato Chairman Neil Clarke said their investigations showed that the risk to life from another weather event on the Thames Coast is ‘unacceptably high’.

“Our analysis shows that four people are likely to lose their lives during a 100-year flood event on the Thames Coast. While that is a statistical figure, we know from past experience that lives are at risk and severe flooding is a constant threat to the people who live there.”

Two people have died in floods on the Thames coast over the past 22 years.

“We have developed a flood protection plan which would provide a much higher level of safety to people and properties on the coast, equivalent to no risk to life for a 100-year flood event,” he said.

The proposal involves a range of measures including the relocation of high risk properties, engineering works and upgrades to the river channels and catchments. The total cost of the proposed works is $11.5 million. The two councils have asked for Government support of $4.8 million.

Government has been asked to fund Transit NZ to improve the bridges and culverts on State Highway 25 and DoC to reduce pests in upper river catchments. Both contribute to severe flooding. Government funding support has also been sought to help with the cost of relocating houses which are in the extreme risk flood zones. The remaining $6.7 million of work required will be paid by a combination of local, district and Regional rates.

The councils will also carry out work to upgrade roads and bridges not owned by Transit as well as a range of pest control activities in the district. Other plans include work to stabilise river channels and banks, as well as changes to building and planning control regulations.

Mr Clarke said that the proposal sent to Government outlines the importance of their role in supporting the Councils proposed measures.

A great deal of damage is done by possums and goats which causes erosion and debris being washed downstream to the coast during a flood. DoC has responsibilities for pest control on Crown land and already undertakes pest control work in some areas along the Thames Coast.

However, Mr Clarke said that all landowners on the coast will need to help control the disastrous effects caused by uncontrolled numbers of possums and goats.

“The District Council has planned to take care of the blockages caused by district roads and we are asking that Transit NZ should upgrade the bridges and culverts which cause flooding around State Highway 25. That is one of our main requests. If this work is not done, there is very little point in undertaking any of the other planned work,” Mr Clarke said.

The case which has been presented to Government shows that, without their support, each ratepayer on the Coast would need to pay an extra $2,000 a year on average to meet the cost of reducing risks to an acceptable level. This is clearly beyond the means of most people.

Mr Clarke said that the risks that residents on the Thames Coast face are not just their responsibility.
“The cost of reducing those risks to an acceptable level should be shared by those who have contributed to them and who will share in the benefits these works will provide.”
Benefits include reduced damage and welfare costs in the future, improved biodiversity and conservation values on the Peninsula and in the Hauraki Gulf and the economic benefits locally, Regionally and nationally of reducing social and economic disruption caused by flooding.

Mr Clarke said the Councils’ proposal has been presented to Government and he hoped to have a response within the next three months.