Man builds ark after council flood warning

CHRIS GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 30/04/2012
Zane Ratcliffe lives on an area of high ground at Rototuna, but has still received a letter from Hamilton City Council claiming his house is prone to a 1-in-100-year flooding. So he's built an ark in preparation.
CHRIS HILLOCK/Fairfax NZ

OH, NOAH: Zane Ratcliffe lives on an area of high ground at Rototuna, but has still received a letter from Hamilton City Council claiming his house is prone to a 1-in-100-year flooding. So he's built an ark in preparation.

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For Zane Ratcliffe the only way to respond to a council letter warning him his home was at risk of flooding was to start building an ark.

Mr Ratcliffe, who lives in Gavin Heights, Rototuna, overlooking the city, is one of 28,000 Hamilton city homeowners to receive a council letter warning that his home was in a possible flood area.

The letter, which followed a $471,000 flood modelling project, did not give any detail of the specific flood risk, or where flood waters might rise from. "The whole thing's a big joke," he said.

Mr Ratcliffe thought the letter was such a joke that he decided to build an ark rather than the pergola he had planned this weekend. The heavens opened as he turned to his tools yesterday.

"The street's called Gavin Heights, it's called that because it's high," he said. "So I figure if my house gets flooded then the rest of Hamilton will be totalled."

Red-faced Hamilton councillors and the city's mayor have apologised after being ridiculed for sending out 28,000 letters to residents warning them they could be at risk of flooding.

Mayor Julie Hardaker and councillors have also called a halt to a flood-related feedback process under way as part of a review of the city's draft district plan.

Full assessments of properties would be completed to determine in more detail the impact of flood modelling work on properties identified as being at risk, the council said in a statement this evening.

Property owners would then be informed in a "better communicated way".

"We got it wrong and I accept responsibility for that,” Hardaker said

 “I apologise on behalf of the council to the people who have received letters about flooding. This has been a very poor and unnecessary process."

Mr Ratcliffe was also concerned of the impact the flood risk project would have on the value of his property since it would be included in any land information memorandum (LIM) report.

"To be honest I have got no confidence in our council," Mr Ratcliffe said.

Mr Ratcliffe said the council's district plan review manager, Paula Rolfe, had promised to review his case after he asked her to pay for any losses he might incur from his home being labelled a flood risk. He said the council had to be 100 per cent sure of its facts before it threatened people's livelihoods with broad claims.

Doris Breeingan, a retired retailer who lives nearby in Kenneth Pl, went to the council open day at Chartwell Co-operating Church on Thursday, and was unable to get answers on what the letter meant to her from councillors or staff.

She found her home of 15 years on a shaded map and discovered that it was at medium risk of flooding thanks to inadequate drainage on the neighbouring right of way and council reserve.

She's never seen any flooding in that time.

"It worries me very much," Mrs Breeingan said. "They can't put 28,000 properties on LIM reports. I don't know how long they can keep getting away with these sort of things. They have spent $471,000 on this and now they are talking about getting engineers in to do individual reports on properties. How much cost is that going to be?"

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Judy McDonald, who had lived in Claude St, Fairfield, between Heaphy Tce and Peachgrove Rd for 34 years, couldn't take her letter from the council seriously as the council had fixed a minor drain backflow problem two decades ago.

"I thought this was ridiculous," she said. "We have not had any problems since they did the drains."

Her home is considerably higher than the Fairfield Bridge which crosses the Waikato River.

"It's ludicrous. It looks to be a bit of an exercise in butt covering. If it was not causing a lot of people distress it would be amusing."

- Waikato Times

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