Porirua council plans to move houses for future flood planning

6:53 am on 8 March 2022

Some homes in Porirua may be raised, relocated or bought-out as the city grapples with its flood-prone future.

Flooding at Karehana Park in Plimmerton, on Sunday.

Flooding at Karehana Park in Plimmerton in November 2021. Photo: Supplied/ Stasia Jackson

A flood retreat proposal is being drafted by Porirua City Council for its most vulnerable homes.

It's ontop of the $17.9 million dollar major infrastructure upgrade for homes in the Karehana area of Plimmerton, which council agreed to late last year.

But not all homes will be taken out of the danger zone, and instead the council is considering footing the bill further.

Around 70 homes were damaged after a significant flood in November 2020 across Porirua.

Plimmerton resident Dave Anderson's home was one of them.

"We stood there and watched the water flowing across the kitchen floor. It was like watching a tidal wave and there was nothing you could do about it. It was a very eerie feeling"

He said much of the community were now anxious when heavy rain hit.

"Our children have told us, when it rains, we're not to stay in our bedroom - just in case the hill comes down."

There are currently around 50 homes across Porirua which are vulnerable to serious, regular flooding.

Initial estimates showed around 10 homes would still be no better off after the infrastructure upgrades.

Porirua City Council Principal Environment Advisor Ben Fountain said infrastructure could only go so far, with the council not only planning for more storms but also a sea level rise of 1-metre.

"The retreat policy is exploring options around 'how do we move people away from the hazard', rather than 'how do we move the hazard away from people'."

Some of the at risk homes would be able to be raised onto stilts and others relocated.

But when that was not possible they could be bought-out by the council.

Porirua flooding

A map of Porirua City Council's flooding zone prioritisation. Photo: Supplied

Fountain said it was likely to operate on a voluntary basis.

"Councils are not in the habit of going and forcing people out of their home," he said.

"It's not going to be a free for all, if you happen to not like your home and want council to sort it out... that's not going to happen."

Any house rise or retreat would likely have to involve council, home owners, their banks and insurance providers.

Initial estimates showed raising one home on stilts may cost about half a million dollars, but a buy-out would cost more.

The council gave Fountain's team a wide brief: the proposed plan needed to be city wide, and target the most vulnerable homes.

Porirua Mayor Anita Baker said the council was interested in hearing more about the proposal, but it would still need to be voted on and no costs had been discussed.

"I do think it's possibly going to have to be stepped up from government also, because council's all round New Zealand just simply can't afford it," she said.

Wages aren't rising fast enough in the city and ratepayers are strapped for cash.

That made it hard for Baker council to meet the cost of adapting to climate change alone.

"We can't go out and buy houses because the tides are going in, which is real," Baker said.

She said it was likely the proposal, if voted on, would need to go out for public consultation.

Porirua City Council will be briefed on the draft options for flood retreat in June.

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