Council launch taskforce to tackle flooding

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 11:54 24/04/2014
Palatine Terrace flooding
Dean Kozanic/Fairfax NZ

SURVEYING DAMAGE: Palatine Tce was just one of many surrounding streets that flooded when the Heathcote River burst its banks in last week's storm.

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The city council is setting up a special taskforce to tackle flooding issues in the city.

The taskforce will have just three weeks to produce a report for the council outlining options for short, medium and long-term flood protection work in the worst-affected areas of the city.

Council acting chief executive Jane Parfitt said while the task force would be taking a holistic view of the land drainage problems citywide, its focus would be on known flooding areas such as the Flockton Basin, Woolston, the Heathcote Valley, Lyttelton, Little River and Akaroa.

Parfitt said some of the temporary solutions the taskforce might look at included water-proofing the first metre of flood-prone buildings with temporary flood barriers and installing non-return valves on sewer connections.

"Given the current risk of flooding in our city, whenever heavy rain in forecast, staff are taking all steps possible to ensure that we can minimise the impact of such an event,'' Parfitt said in a report presented to today's council meeting.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel welcomed the establishment of a taskforce, saying it would help cut across the silos within the council.

"We have multiple layers of issues we have to address,'' said Dalziel. 

The taskforce would not just be looking at long-term engineering solutions but also temporary solutions.

"Some of those temporary options are being worked through at the moment and they will be reported on within the next three weeks, which should give people some comfort,'' the mayor said.

"The areas which we are looking at is where floor levels were breached."

Cr Andrew Turner, who represents the Banks Peninsula ward which has also been badly affected by flooding, said the taskforce should give residents some confidence the council was moving swiftly to address their problems.

In the Lyttelton area, where there had been multiple slips, the problem was not so much flooding as land drainage, he pointed out.

TASKFORCE 'DOESN'T OFFER PEACE OF MIND' FOR RESIDENTS

For some property owners in the Flockton Basin the announcement is too little too late.

Westport resident Ann Blythe, 74, and her husband Bill own two flats on Harrison St - both of which have flooded out tenants numerous times.

After their flat on lower ground flooded for the third time in June 2013, their insurance company cancelled their flood cover. It was only reinstated after they spoke to media about their plight.

Ann Blythe said the taskforce "absolutely [does] not" provide her with peace of mind to want to stay in the area.

"We are so badly affected now we just want to get out," she said.

"We're not getting anything out of it, we can't live in it, we can't rent it and it's a large difference in our retirement."

The couple were initially told their house was repairable. However, they now want a "fair exit payment" to move on and put the money towards their retirement.

"We've asked the insurance company to hold the repair money until something concrete is decided about what's going to happen.

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"The option [for a payout] should be given to those of us worse off. I go and cry every time I look at it. It's just been a horrible stress."

Blythe is one of a large portion of people in the Flockton Basin who want to be paid out and move on, flooding resident's group co-ordinator Jo Byrne said.

However she said the taskforce may bring some relief to those who want to stay in the area. 

"It depends on how badly people are affected. One-third want to get out, and the rest don't know or want to stay. These measures might actually make it slightly more liveable for them."

However, Byrne said further action still needed to be taken to bring people financial relief while they awaited decisions on their homes, including an accommodation supplement.

"There are people there in their 60s using camping gear in their house every time it rains," she said.

"Having some financial support would help a lot of people absolutely in dire situations, and the Government has still got to put support in for people on the social side of things."

Heathcote resident Joanne Bos said it was reassuring to know something would be done as winter approached.

Bos's garage, which is under her house, flooded in the March floods and wrote off her car.

She had been considering water-proofing her garage herself after the latest bout of rain when water entered her garage again.

"I know it's not going to be a quick fix but if they can do something that is certainly going to be better," she said.

Her biggest concern was the contaminated water in the river inundating the surrounding homes.

"I cleaned it up last time and this time it was just like: Oh no, not again."

- The Press

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