Hopes high for West Coast flood protection funding

3:27 pm on 3 July 2020

The West Coast wishlist of flood protection schemes looks set to be granted - at least in part after the government announced a $210 million investment in climate resilience.

The Waiho Bridge on State Highway 6.

In April 2019, the Waiho Bridge on SH6 washed away after torrential rain battered the West Coast for two days. Photo: Wayne Costello / DOC

A total of 150 projects around the country will go ahead with funding from the $3 billion Covid Response and Recovery Fund.

The West Coast Regional Council applied in May for $45m worth of flood protection schemes in Westport, Greymouth, Hokitika and Franz Josef.

"We understand quite a bit of the $210m is for us and we're just waiting for the details of what's been approved," chief executive Mike Meehan said.

It would be especially exciting if the major flood protection work proposed for Franz Josef had been accepted for funding, he said.

"That involves increasing the height of the stopbanks, building more stopbanks and the Transport Agency project to raise the bridge ... it would be great to get that over the line."

Local Government also welcomed the funding announcement.

"It recognises the value of our flood protection network, the challenges of climate change, and that this is a national issue that deserves national support," LGNZ president Dave Cull said.

Central government investment into river management and flood protection projects had stalled after the 1989 local government reforms, leaving it up to local ratepayers to develop and maintain, Cull said.

"Communities, mainly through regional councils have continued to invest $200m a year in these schemes, but without central government support, this critical infrastructure has not kept pace with growing flood risks."

Flooding was New Zealand's most common natural disaster, and was now being made worse climate change-induced storm events, like those that caused devastating floods last year in both the North and South islands, Cull said.

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