Motueka flood defence warning

Wakatu Incorporation has warned the Tasman District Council that it has a duty of care to maintain the Motueka River's stopbanks and protect the town, and is calling on the council to reverse a decision to cap flood protection spending at $5 million.

The incorporation's associate director, Kerensa Johnston, told councillors yesterday that the precedent of care had been set by Manawatu district landowners who took their council to court after stopbanks failed, flooding land and homes.

"This council has a higher duty of care, because it's aware of problems with the river's stopbanks as a result of investigations in 2006."

Mrs Johnston made the comments in a presentation prior to the council's adoption of its long-term plan.

Shying away from the planned $16.32m upgrade of the stopbanks put Motueka at risk, she said.

"We don't want to end up in a situation where the stopbanks fail, the community is at risk and the council liable, because if we go to court, the ratepayers will end up paying through rates and insurance."

The 13-year programme of work was to start in 2017-18.

The latest decision will see council staff return to the blackboard and the community to decide what can be done for $5m.

Mrs Johnston said the spending cut went against a 2011 poll of Motueka residents which saw 62 per cent support for the $16.32m upgrade.

Wakatu was supported by the board of Te Awhina Marae, which this week voted unanimously to support the incorporation in its opposition to the council's move, she said.

Wakatu wanted the council to reverse its decision on flood protection spending for the town now, and not at its plan review in three years, and meet with the community to explain what the $5m would be used for, she said.

Motueka Community Board chairman David Ogilvie said the river's stopbanks did not meet enginering standards, and any breach could see significant flooding.

He was pleased that Wakatu had raised the issue, and said he was baffled as to why the council had decided to reduce its planned spending for flood protection, which had originally been supported by all parties.

Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne said the reality was that most of the work initially planned to be done on the stopbanks would have taken place after the end of the current 10-year plan this year.

The council planned to talk to Motueka residents about why it made the decision, but basically, the move was driven by the council wanting to reduce long-term debt, he said. It planned to review all its capital projects.

However, Wakatu chairman Paul Morgan said he had little confidence in the council's planning and budgeting.

A case in point was the council's determination to spend $38.2m on the planned Coastal Tasman Pipeline to supply water to Mapua's 2000 residents, he said.

The council holds consent to extract water from the Motueka aquifer to supply the pipeline and reticulate Motueka.

Mr Morgan said the water belonged to the community for Motueka's strategic development over the next 50 to 100 years, to grow crops and develop horticulture.

The region was already seeing the result of water mismanagement on the Waimea Plains, where the over-allocation of that aquifer had driven the proposed $41.6m Lee Valley Community Dam.

The Nelson Mail