Flooding project suspended but still has to be paid

HELEN MURDOCH
Last updated 09:34 28/11/2013

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Community supporters of the Motueka Flood Control project are acutely disappointed Tasman District Council has decided to suspend work on the project.

The council is likely to remove the project from its 2015-25 work programme but affected Motueka landowners will continue to pay targeted rates to fund the $632,000 already spent on investigation work.

The decision to suspend the project was made by councillors at last week's engineering services committee meeting.

They were told modelling showed the $5 million budget was not enough to repair the lower river's banks and, if breaches did occur, the floodwater would only be around 10cm deep in the township.

In her report to the committee, the council's activities planning adviser Sarah Downs said while it was recognised the stopbanks were prone to saturation over long periods of very high river flows, the modelled consequences for Motueka and Riwaka were considered acceptable.

Motueka Community Board member and long-term supporter of the project, David Ogilvie, said he was acutely disappointed at the decision which seemed to be around saving money.

Binning the project would undermine the town's security and potentially undermine, not just investment by local businesses and residents, but the council's infrastructure as well.

He was concerned by the level of forestry activity in the hills above the river, which increased water flows of the logged hills, and wanted to see the land quickly replanted.

Wakatu Incorporation chairman Paul Morgan said he thought it was agreed the reduced project would be expanded when finance was available. He had not yet been briefed on the situation and was disappointed to hear the project had been suspended.

"I'm sure the community and ourselves will respond to this," he said.

The decision can be seen as a death knell for the initial $11.6 million, plus inflation, project which has undergone years of planning and consultation. Last year the council capped the project at $5m in the face of public concerns over rising council debt.

Now it could be dropped entirely, depending on feedback for the 2015-2025 Long Term Plan.

Finance manager Russell Holden told last week's meeting it was proposed the $632,000 loan would be continued to be paid through variable targeted rates until a decision on its future funding was made in the LTP process.

Mayor Richard Kempthorne said the Motueka community and affected landowners expected some repairs be made to the stopbanks.

But transportation manager Gary Clark told the meeting that affected ratepayers had benefited through the new modelled information on the banks' condition.

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Sarah said a direct newsletter would be sent to affected ratepayers and the wider community initially consulted as part of next year's annual plan process.

Gary said the main issue was stopbank failure due to saturation over days of very high river flows. The most recent modelling showed the council could spend its current $5m budget on repairing isolated locations, but because of the saturation issues the banks could fail elsewhere.

Engineering services manager Peter Thomson said the risk of the stopbanks failing had not changed, but the council's understanding of how the stopbanks may fail and the impact on landowners had.

"We felt the risk of living with the existing stopbanks is acceptable given the current budget," he said.

- Nelson

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