Lack of rain helps work to prevent flooding

Dry weather and competitive contracts are helping Horizons make better progress than expected on flood protection works on the Lower Manawatu Scheme.

But Horizons group manager for operations Allan Cook told the regional council meeting yesterday that managing dust and the speed of progress has also inflated the cost of the project this financial year.

Work was likely to go $210,000 over budget, partly offset by savings next year.

The $4.4 million cluster of flood protection works centred on the Taonui Basin is part of a $72.5m, 14-year project promised after the devastating February 2004 floods.

Mr Cook said six tenders had been let this season, and with the council's approval for the over-spending yesterday, another was about to be awarded.

He said the prices were competitive and the dry season had assisted contractors in making headway on the work programme.

But there had also been challenges.

The dry weather had demanded more resources be put into controlling dust, and ensuring that the soil was kept damp enough to assist earth movement and compaction.

There had been a 6 per cent under-estimate of the amount of earth to be moved in one contract - to a total of 8800 cubic metres.

The amount payable to farmers for loss of grazing during construction was also creating budget uncertainties.

Cr Murray Guy said the need for extra spending was a result of "making hay while the sun shines".

"We made a promise to the community to have this work done in 12 years.

"To bring forward some spending planned for next year allows us to get back on track and it's a sensible business decision."

One of the largest parts of the project this season was the $1m enlargement of Burkes Drain to improve drainage and the $1.3m Burkes Pump, which accounted for the $210,000 over-spend.

Savings and cost over-runs on other issues had cancelled each other out.

Mr Cook said pushing ahead this season would allow for the risks associated with the low Kopane link banks and the sub-standard Rangiotu culvert to be reduced ahead of schedule.

Water that ponds in the Taonui Basin will be cleared as quickly as possible by improvements to Burke's Drain and some new outlet culverts.

Manawatu Standard