29 Sep 2022

Minister meets with Nelson council to check on progress after floods

8:48 pm on 29 September 2022
A huge slip on the Kenepuru Road, visible behind Chrissy Sumby's Waima Bay property.

A huge slip on Kenepuru Road. Photo: RNZ / Samantha Gee

The recovery continues in Nelson and Marlborough, where many residents have been unable to return home due to damaged roads or because their properties are unlivable.

Local Government and Emergency Management Minister Kieran McAnulty met with Nelson City Council today to hear from elected members.

Councillor Trudie Brand asked McAnulty what the government could do to support Nelson's arterial link roads, because their vulnerability had been highlighted by recent severe weather events.

McAnulty acknowledged the region was vulnerable, like most of New Zealand, and wanted to see improvements to the emergency funding available to councils during severe weather events.

"That fund has been increased significantly, but so too has the demand upon it, and so when that fund gets exhausted as [is the situation] we find ourselves in now, it comes from the broader pool to fix and provide an increased funding assistance rate," McAnulty said.

That had been the case in Marlborough, he said.

"The event in July last year, roughly $85 million worth of damage to the local roads, the government stepped in with a 95 percent funding assistance rate - the damage [from last month] was far worse than that and the pool has been exhausted."

Kieran McAnulty

Kieran McAnulty said increasing demand for emergnecy funds available to councils during severe weather events was a big issue. File picture. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The government would continue to provide financial support to recover from natural disasters, but the increasing demand was a big issue, McAnulty said.

"I hope we can get some political consensus around the need to maintain maintenance funding so they don't fall into the trap we've seen previously, where they take that [funding] and use it elsewhere and look for improvements around resilience as well."

The traditional model for maintaining roading infrastructure - through fuel excise tax and road user charges - no longer covered it and needed to be reconsidered, McAnulty said.

A decade of underfunding road maintenance was also having an effect on the region's $26m budget, he said.

"It's been stretched in two ways, making up for the shortfall previously and trying to go for the future, and it's something I've been feeding back to the transport minister regularly."

Johnson's Barge Service has been ferrying people and vehicles up and down the Kenepuru Sound.

Johnson's Barge Service has been ferrying people and vehicles up and down the Kenepuru Sound. Photo: RNZ / Samantha Gee

Proposal to reallocate roading repair funds in Marlborough

Marlborough District Council chief executive Mark Wheeler said of the $85.3m already approved to be spent on repairs from the July 2021 event, about $42m remained unspent.

The council has made a request to Waka Kotahi that this funding be re-allocated to respond to the August 2022 event to achieve emergency service and essential access where possible and to continue with repairs to 2021 priority damage sites.

Kenepuru and Central Sounds Residents Association chair Andrew Caddie said the request to reallocate funding was "grossly inequitable".

The share of the money allocated to the Kenepuru Road from the July 2021 event should be used to finish the damaged sites as was promised, Caddie said.

"I think it's fair to say that a bit like the road, [residents] feel a bit bruised and battered. The Kenepuru Road is a vital lifeline, it's quite a long road, it must be over the best part of 100 kilometres long by the time you wind around the sound."

The suggestion residents could lose vehicle access between Moetapu Road and Portage was a "serious blow to the wellbeing of the community", he said.

Residents wanted to see blocked culverts cleared, water re-directed from running across roads and work to stop further deterioration so access could be reinstated.

"What we want is the road to be open for residents, light vehicles and trailers and by open I mean legally open. At the moment, it's a closed road, but there is a reasonable amount of traffic going up and down it as we speak," Caddie said.

Marlborough District Council have identified several priority roads, including the Kenepuru Road between Queen Charlotte Drive and Moetapu Bay, Fish Bay to Kenepuru Head, and Torea Bay to Kenepuru Head.

Waka Kotahi top of the South system manager Andrew James said it was working on a formal response to the council's request to reallocate funding from the July 2021 event.

When last month's storm hit, Marlborough Road's crews were still in the process of repairing faults from the previous event. The most recent weather had caused double the number of faults on the already fragile network, with notable impacts in the Kenepuru area.

Cost estimates of the damage have not yet been finalised.

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