Walkway's flood risk not notified

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 25/05/2013
Gaile Noonan
ALDEN WILLIAMS/Fairfax NZ
NOT INFORMED: Hathaway Court body corporate spokesman Jim Mitchell and resident Gaile Noonan on the banks of the Maitai River, with Civic House in the background.

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Residents of an apartment complex near the lower Maitai River in Nelson are disturbed to discover that they could be in the firing line of major floods as a result of work on the new Maitai Walkway, and that the Nelson City Council failed to let them know about the risk.

Hathaway Court body corporate spokesman Jim Mitchell said the residents were not against the walkway development, and supported beautification plans for the city, but were concerned that they were excluded from being notified of the risk discovered by their own assessments.

The council said the project followed standard procedure in terms of gaining a resource consent and dealing with those identified by the consents team as affected parties. In answer to the concerns raised by the residents, the resource consent is being double-checked to ensure the correct process was followed.

Resident Gaile Noonan, who joined Mr Mitchell to present their concerns at the council's recent annual plan hearings, has sought a legal opinion around the lack of notification, which has revealed that the residents were not given the advice they should have been.

Mr Mitchell said it would only be an "extreme flood" that would inundate their homes, plus large areas of The Wood, according to an engineering assessment, but it was clear from recent experience that such weather events were becoming less rare.

"Engineers have said that by building up the left bank, it could affect the right bank [nearest us] and increase the risk to us in the event of an extreme flood."

Mr Mitchell said the residents were initially "very annoyed" at the apparent stealth under which the project began - firstly by the removal of trees to create the path, and then the silence over anything that might be a downside.

The project to improve the walkway is part of the broader plan to create a city-to-sea link as part of the Heart of Nelson strategy, which will take in the staged development of Rutherford Park, the Trafalgar Centre upgrade, and the Maitai Walkway through to the Nelson marina.

An engineers' report said the walkway was subject to the flood path overlay set out on the Nelson Resource Management Plan maps, and that flooding was a known hazard.

The resource consent decision showed that Trailways Hotel, which is immediately south of the apartments and fronts the river, was included in a consultation process with engineers Tonkin & Taylor. Ms Noonan said Trailways, which would form some sort of bulwark, was rightly consulted about this effect.

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"We, who are directly in their lee and being lower, would be subject to any eddies boiling around them but were not [consulted]," she said.

Mr Mitchell said a combination of a very high tide and strong rain could produce this effect, but "we just don't know".

The council said the consultant's report developed for the resource consent showed that in a very extreme flood, there would be the possibility of flooding 50 millimetres deep in the Hathaway Tce area.

An event on that scale would mean a "considerable amount of flooding in a range of other places along the river", so residents of Hathaway Tce were not considered to be any more affected than other properties near the river.

"Owing to their location directly on the river edge, Trailways was consulted as a directly affected party," the council said.

Mr Mitchell said the main point was the feeling that citizens were a "bloody nuisance".

"It's a matter of courtesy to ask us as a small part of a very large group what is going on. We're not against the project but want to know what the risks are."

The residents also wanted the council to "start respecting its own processes and citizens".

"People we've dealt with have always been polite and helpful, and their answers well-intentioned, but the problem is one hand says one thing and the other says another thing.

"If the council followed a line of protocol, it wouldn't have this situation of citizens being immensely irritated. It's a sign of tremendous dysfunction."

Ms Noonan said all they asked was for the council to act in the spirit of a good neighbour. It might have "popped over and had a chat about what they planned to do".

- The Nelson Mail

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