Ward: Councils not at fault for damage

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 23/04/2013

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It was unfair to blame councils for damage following Sunday's deluge because it would not have been possible to create infrastructure on a scale large enough to cope, city councillor Mike Ward said.

The co-holder of the council's policy and planning portfolio said yesterday that while councils were factoring into their planning the likelihood of more extreme weather events, it would "probably not be possible" to create infrastructure that could have dealt with Sunday's extraordinary weather and flash floods.

Parts of Nelson received record rainfall by New Zealand standards, including the second highest hourly rainfall on record for any region.

The city council reported there had been serious damage to the roads and paths within the Saxton Field complex, which was now closed, including Sports House, the Saxton Stadium, and all playing fields and sports areas.

Saxton Stadium has damage to the hardwood floor and is being fully assessed. It will be closed for at least one week.

Sports House has damage after water entered the suspended ceiling and caused parts of it to collapse.

The most affected area within the Nelson region was along Orphanage Creek, in Stoke.

The Emergency Operations Centre estimated that at least 90 private homes in the Tasman district had been affected by flooding to varying degrees and were being checked by building inspectors.

The Tasman council received requests for more than 700 sandbags. Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne said a lot of the cost of the damage to the Saxton complex, which was a joint Nelson-Tasman facility, would be covered by insurance.

He did not expect the latest storm damage to affect current budgeting processes. Tasman's emergency management fund of around $600,000 annually was replenished each year through rates, but the draw on it in recent years meant it was not building up.

Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio said it was too early to forecast as assessments were still to be done, including what would be covered by insurance. "I don't anticipate costs to be as high for the city council as the slips we had in the previous Christmas," he said.

Both councils were already incorporating thinking on rising sea level predictions into planning, in response to the release of national environmental standards on sea level rises.

Readers responding to Nelson Mail stories yesterday made observations about council responsibility.

"Planner" said it was an "opportune time" to review proposed development on the Richmond flood plain, including Richmond West.

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"This area was a swamp prior to construction of a drainage network. Extreme weather events such as this, combined with accelerating sea level rise, makes development of these areas illogical and untenable. Even those on higher ground will be adversely affected through increased insurance premiums."

Another reader said it appeared "poor use" had been made of the Development Contributions over the years with inadequate infrastructure, while another said it was "physically impossible" for an organisation to get around to every site where gutters and drains might be full of leaves, which is why councils everywhere relied on residents "doing their bit as well".

Mr Ward said while councils could not adapt by way of infrastructure, they were thinking about where development should happen, with regard to future flood events.

"Floods like this happen all over the planet - it was simply a case of the water not being able to flow away fast enough," Mr Ward said.

- The Nelson Mail

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