West Coast council anticipates flood protection funding announcement

7:40 pm on 16 July 2020

West Coast councils are waiting to hear how much they will have to pitch in for flood protection work largely funded by the government as Covid-recovery 'shovel-ready' projects.

Flooding in Westport.

The West Coast Regional Council hopes to win government approval for a $10 million flood protection scheme for Westport. (file pic) Photo: Chris Cooper

The West Coast Regional Council asked for $45 million for projects from Westport to Franz Josef Glacier, and heard in last week's major government funding announcements that $24 million had been approved.

It will not know for another week or so exactly what has been funded and how much ratepayers will be asked to contribute.

Operations manager Randal Beal told the council meeting this week he understood that any funding for flood protection would have to be co-funded by communities at a rate yet to be confirmed.

The projects would also have to start within two months to meet the government's goal of creating jobs quickly to employ people who lost their jobs in the Covid-19 downturn.

A local share component was required for each of the flood protection projects and that could be delivered through a targeted rate on those properties which benefited, Beal said.

"Except for Westport, all of the projects have existing rating districts that could be modified to deliver the fairest funding model required to fulfil the local share funding obligation."

He recommended the council consult the community on the method of rating as soon as the criteria and funding arrangements were clarified.

It could then decide whether to establish a new rating district, or modify an existing one to fund the work, and confirm any changes in the 2021-31 long term plan.

Potentially, the Franz Josef and Lower Waiho rating districts could merge and extend to capture all the properties that would benefit, in one rating district. The existing credit balance in Franz Josef rating district would be returned to the properties within the current rating district boundaries.

For the Hokitika protection works, the Hokitika seawall and Kaniere rating districts could merge.

The choice for Westport would be to form a rating district under the regional council, or have the Buller District Council provide the co-funding and strike a target rate to cover it, in line with the way the Greymouth floodwall was funded.

The regional council at its meeting this week agreed in principle to co-fund flood protection projects approved by the government, following community consultation.

Councillor Laura Coll-McLaughlin, of Westport, said there would have to be community support for the targeted rating proposals for the work to go ahead.

"At the end of the day, the community has to be on board with it. We should not predict the outcome of consultation -- there will be people who don't want it."

Council chief executive Mike Meehan said the Cabinet ministers involved in regional development would meet next Monday and make final decisions about which projects to fund and the co-funding percentage should be known within 10 days.

"But this isn't getting in the way of council getting on with procuring the works and undertaking logistic and communication work to support the projects.

"This is really big for us. It's amazing that communities are being offered this money; up till now we've have had to fund all flood protection ourselves and it's not since the days of the old catchment boards that the government has contributed in this way," Meehan said.

Nominated projects

The West Coast Regional Council put forward the following projects for funding:

  • $24m for Franz Josef and lower Waiho River flood protection, including $3.6m NZ Transport Agency funding for raising the Waiho Bridge on State Highway 6.
  • $3m for Hokitika and Kaniere river flood protection and coastal protection; $5m for the Hokitika seawall extension.
  • $2.58m for Greymouth flood protection stage 2.
  • $500,000 for Westport's advance flood warning system.
  • $10m for a Westport flood protection scheme.
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The Waiho bridge was seriously damaged during a flood in March 2019. Photo: NZTA Screenshot

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