Flood safety to cost city millions

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 07/03/2014

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The Invercargill City Council may have to fork out millions of dollars to protect one of the city's "lifelines" from flooding.

Projections by the city council show the two floodbanks they are responsible for, which span part of the New River Estuary, will have to be raised and improved soon to ensure the city and airport are not flooded by rising tides. The airport sits on reclaimed land.

City council chief executive Richard King said although he did not know how much the council would have to pour into the banks, it would be "well into the millions".

"We are pretty convinced sea levels will continue to rise as they have been doing and the airport is sitting on reclaimed land. Eventually the Stead St bank will need attention."

While the money would not have to be spent immediately, it was an area that would need attention, he said.

"We don't know when we will have to do it. It's quite full on."

While the council had money available in the reclamation fund that could be used for the project, it was not known if that would cover all the work, he said.

The fund has $5.44 million in it.

Council works and services director Cameron McIntosh said the issue would be considered under the council's asset management plan and highlighted in the long-term plan.

"They [the floodbanks] need to be raised and strengthened."

The banks would need to be raised in some parts by 75cm.

It was classified as "lifeline work" by the council because it could adversely affect the city's airport, he said.

"If it wasn't for those banks, there would be water on the runway now."

But despite its success at keeping water off the runway, they would need a "significant upgrade" soon.

"We won't be waiting for 2050."

Environment Southland catchment manager Noel Hinton said the regional council had no plans to improve or raise any floodbanks it managed for another 40 years. "We don't see any need to raise any banks at this point in time but I would suggest that our grandchildren may well be involved in it."

Mr Hinton said there was a lot of science being done to predict sea level rise, but how much work would have to be done on stop banks around the region and when it would have to be done was unknown.

"How long is a piece of string?"

louise.berwick@stl.co.nz

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