Ratepayer talks to decide box's fate

ALEXIA JOHNSTON
Last updated 05:00 25/01/2013

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The future of a 100-year-old Waihao River mouth box will be discussed at a meeting of ratepayer farmers in the area.

The box, which keeps the river mouth open to the sea, prevents flooding of farm land surrounding the Waihao River and Wainono Lagoon to the north. It was damaged by recent flooding.

A "few" timber boards are missing from the side of the box, but it is not yet known what the future holds for the structure - if the boards will be replaced, or if the box will be removed completely. A ratepayers meeting in February will discuss the options.

Mike Laming, of the Wainono Drainage Group, said the box was "a sensitive issue".

"We're now at a stage of considering the actual future of the box."

However, Environment Canterbury area engineer Bruce Scarlett said a range of options would be put to the farmer ratepayers to consider.

The meeting is not open to the public, only ratepayers in the area. A drainage rate, charged to farmers, goes towards the box's maintenance. However, Federated Farmers Waimate branch chairman Colin Hurst said its funding should be reconsidered.

"The funding of these activities needs to be thoroughly investigated as to the different options. It's been an ongoing issue for a number of years."

Before European settlement in the 19th century, any flooding across the low-lying land that surrounded the river and lagoon and wider catchment area was simply seen as nature at work.

Since then, 2500 hectares of fertile farmland has been developed and at one stage a specific drainage board existed to rate farmers for the maintenance of the box.

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- The Timaru Herald

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