Cabinet yet to see $56m Westport flood case

3:30 pm on 3 November 2022
Buller flooding map - An aerial view of the Westport area showing the main flooding pressure point at Organs Island, bottom.

A view of the main pinch points on the Westport flood plain. Photo: Supplied / West Coast Regional Council

Cabinet has still not seen the business case for a $56 million flood protection scheme for Westport.

The town has just endured another storm watch in the past 24 hours - with residents again on tenterhooks, spurring "bloody panic".

Snodgrass Road resident Paul Reynolds said people were still struggling in the aftermath of the 2021 flood, which left a $100m trail of destruction in its wake.

"We can't get on with life because we've got a $100m threat every time we've got heavy rain," Reynolds said today.

West Coast Regional Council chief executive Heather Mabin told councillors today the Department of Internal Affairs had advised there had been a delay in getting the business case to Cabinet.

"It was meant to be considered this week," Mabin said.

The full proposal was submitted with the government in June. It proposes co-funding with the regional council for a range of protection works for the town.

A flooded Buller River in Westport, February 2022.

A flooded Buller River in Westport, February 2022. Photo: RNZ / Samantha Gee

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta asked for the proposal in February, stipulating it must include resilience, climate change adaptation and retreat options.

Mabin was in Wellington today to meet with officials.

Associate Local Government Minister Kieran McAnulty told the Greymouth Star the Westport case was "under active consideration".

Regional council chairman Allan Birchfield said Westport just needed an answer, with the town repeatedly weighed down by the next flood threat.

"Every time we get these flood events, as we have just had, there's bloody panic at Westport," Birchfield said.

"Really, (the government) need to get on with it. The people up there can't live like this -- a constant state of emergency every time it rains."

He noted the government had committed to the nearly rebuilt $12m Buller Health complex, in a part of Westport that was projected in future to be under water.

Other government-owned assets such as the state highway network and the rail connection had to be protected.

"Apparently there's $1 billion of (Crown) assets there, so really they need to spend the money instead of putting it on the ratepayer," Birchfield said.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

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