Snodgrass residents still want answers

2:28 pm on 13 August 2022

By Brandon McMahon, Local Democracy Reporter

A clear solution for a flood-prone neighbourhood on the outskirts of Westport will not be known until the government responds to the proposed $45 million business case to protect the town from future floods, residents have been told.

Buller High School and surrounds in Westport, flooding, 17 July 2021

Buller High School and surrounds in Westport during flooding in July, 2021 Photo: Supplied/NZ Defence Force

The business case, based upon a 75-25 percent funding split between the government and local ratepayers, includes a $26m protection wall proposed by West Coast Regional Council.

However, residents of Snodgrass Road, on the north edge of the Orowaiti Estuary - badly flooded in the July 2021 disaster - were stunned to learn two months ago that they had been excluded.

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The occupants and owners of 34 residences were called into a closed door meeting on Wednesday with the council and the technical experts for the business case.

The hour-long meeting was followed by one-on-one sessions with the specialists.

Afterwards, the council stressed it was not formal "consultation" and was simply to give the neighbourhood background information.

However, Snodgrass Road resident Sarah Lee Smith said the questions they were asked to submit ahead of the meeting had not been adequately addressed.

"I felt they weren't answered - and deflected. I did get a little more hope out of our personal one-one-one meeting with the experts," Smith said.

Joanne Dixon said while there were "some answers" for the 42 questions they submitted, the forum "just ran out of time".

"We thought we were going to the meeting and they would have answers. It didn't really go that way.

"I don't think anyone walked out of there feeling that they got answers."

Dixon said the impact of a small protection wall for Snodgrass and flooding of land further inland and the effect on the residential area on the other side of the Orowaiti Estuary in Westport were canvassed.

The issue of 'sacrificing' Snodgrass Road as a flood plain under the proposed scheme was clarified.

Business case consultant John Hutchings told residents it would be unlikely Snodgrass would become a 'red zone' given it would be precedent setting and "because Westport is a test case," Dixon said.

Smith said a $10m figure touted to work out a solution for lower lying Snodgrass Road properties seemed "paltry" given the amounts spent on consultant fees.

Meantime, people were still waiting.

"They're saying give us three months, but there is no strict rule it's going to be three months."

Those in the low lying portions were advised to collaborate for a bund scheme and apply for consent - but at this stage they would still have to pay.

Smith said they heard the proposed $26m floodbank for Westport could actually make flooding in Snodgrass worse, by up to 20cm more than the 2021


"The walls they are going to put around the Buller banks will allow more water to run around Snodgrass."

People were still dealing with the flood impact of a year ago - about 1.8m of water through her house alone - and needed to get on with their lives.

"We need somewhere to live. Those that have a massive mortgage like myself have go to ahead and let the insurance fix my house. All we can really do is go ahead for the rebuild plans ... and hope for the best," Smith said.

Council strategy and communications manager Nichola Costley said the meeting was simply intended to "background" Snodgrass Road residents.

"The proposal that's gone to central government is a proposal at this point. Depending on those outcomes, we'll know how much money is available then we can do the community consultation," Costley said.

She acknowledged Snodgrass residents had a "a tricky situation to work through".

The questions received by the council prior to the meeting had been useful and were used as the basis of the talk by the technical specialists.

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