20 Feb 2020

Gore District Council counting cost of Southland floods

7:00 pm on 20 February 2020

Southland's flooding has caused an estimated $2 million of damage to the Gore District Council's infrastructure.

Southland flooding: rivers receding

Photo: Supplied / High Country Helicopters

Torrential downpours and a swollen Mataura River flooded homes and washed out roads in the district for several days early this month.

Council chief executive Steve Parry said the flooding caused about $2 million worth of damage.

"The damage was reasonably extensive and touched on roading, what we call three waters, parks and reserves and also we have had three old landfill sites scoured out and they'll require careful remediation," Parry said.

"So it's a developing picture but we have got a rough idea of what the cost might be for most things apart from the landfill remediation - that's subject to surveying and a formal plan to be developed."

He was hopeful ratepayers would not be left with the lion's share of the cost of the repairs.

"That will be funded by a variety of means. We do hold insurance for our three waters infrastructure and obviously we can get a special subsidy rate from NZTA in respect of roading but there'll be some other costs we don't have funding for and we'll have to look at another avenue for that."

One thing not covered by any other means was the damage to the three disused landfill sites - two areas of the old Gore landfill and another in Mataura.

"At this point in time there's no obvious funding source but that's not to say something can't be uncovered as the picture unfolds as we move forward."

That likely meant changes to the forthcoming annual plan and a report would go to the council in coming months.

Whatever the cost, the landfill situation needed to be resolved.

"I think in this day and age a band-aid approach ain't going to cut it - particularly with environmental risk. We need to put that fact out there right here and now," Parry said.

"In terms of cost? We don't know but it's not likely to be cheap. Seven figures? Who knows, but it could be.

"We won't know more until we have done the formal survey of what has been exposed and then a design to permanently resolve the issue. We are putting in place some intermediary measures just to contain what is there but a more permanent fix needs to be found."

Digging up and relocating the rubbish contained at the sites was not on the table, but any solution would have to permanently protect the landfills' contents from future flooding.

Council staff would also been reassessing any buildings damaged by the floodwater in coming days.

Around the district, 29 homes had water above the floor line, with many more having water underneath, and 18 business were affected by floodwater.

Those 47 premises had been 'yellow-stickered' which meant occupiers could enter at their own discretion and risk to clean up, strip and dry out the building.

Parry acknowledged the strain the flooding had caused and said a recovery co-ordinator would soon be appointed by the council to assist those affected.

"A prime purpose of that position will be to focus on people issues - the infrastructure stuff council staff will look after," he said.

"But the issues that emerge as we move forward the stresses and strains and difficulties... that person will be on the ground to support... those wanting to move forward and gain control of their lives through what has been a very disruptive and emotional experience."

It would be weeks before insurance estimates were available but it was expected they would dwarf the costs faced by the council.

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