Council promises flood protection work will start in six months

2:48 pm on 2 March 2022

By Brendon McMahon Local Democracy reporter

Lack of progress on Westport flood protection can be attributed to "insufficient appetite" to actually get on and do it, says the West Coast Regional Council as it today defended its role in an open letter to Westport residents.

A flooded home in Wesport

Some Westport residents have seen their homes flooded more than once in under a year. (File pic) Photo: RNZ / Anan Zaki

The council says physical work to start building new flood protection should start within six months.

Chief executive Heather Mabin said flood protection for Westport was not a new topic.

"It has been raised by successive councils for many years now but there has not been sufficient appetite," to move it forward, she said.

"This has now changed," with submissions to the 2021 long-term plan plus community feedback since last September having been heard, she said.

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Mabin said council had agreed to progress the $10.2 million flood protection project on the proviso long-term plan consultation submissions were considered and the adverse effects of the flood protection project were investigated.

Negative impact on landowners through the planned flood protection work was worrying some.

Mabin said council consultation material had pointed out the project would be focused on survey and design for the first year - the bulk of work undertaken to date.

Council staff had worked "incredibly hard" to meet the year timeframe proposed, she said.

A model of the lower Buller River and Orowaiti River created in 2014, reviewed after the July 2021 flood, had been found to be very accurate in predicting where water would go and at what rate.

Buller River on 3 February 2022.

The Buller River when it was in flood early last month. Photo: RNZ / Samantha Gee

"There appears to be a fine balance in the amount of water that should go down the (Buller) river and that which goes down the Orowaiti."

Regional council engineers were working with consultants on the best option with regard to the Orowaiti.

The recently formed Westport Rating District Joint Committee would make recommendations to the regional council on the best options, at the committee's inaugural meeting tomorrow, and a full council meeting would consider its recommendations next week.

"It is envisaged that there will be works that can commence immediately."

Negotiations with landowners about flood protection being built on their properties for the bigger part would also begin.

"Land tenure and consenting processes may take at least six months."

Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.

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