Council braces itself for more damaging storms

MIKE MATHER
Last updated 05:00 01/08/2014
Port Jackson Rd Coromandel
AIMIE CRONIN/Fairfax NZ

BRIDGE TOO FAR: A bridge on Port Jackson Rd Coromandel Peninsula, washed out in the June 10 storm.

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An extreme "once-in-100-years" weather event is likely to strike somewhere in the Waikato region at least once every couple of years.

That was the somewhat dire prediction made by Waikato Regional Council community safety programme manager Adam Munro during a discussion on the destruction wrought by the June storm that hit the upper west coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, between Waiaro Bay and Port Jackson, causing massive damage to property and infrastructure.

And because the council could expect to deal with the messy consequences of such storms, it would pay to have funds available to cover the clean-up.

Perhaps moved by Munro's forecast and the extent of the devastation wrought by the June 10 storm, the council moved to pursue the setting up of a policy and an annual fund that could be used to deal with any future events.

At yesterday's meeting the council also approved a one-off payment of $10,000 to go towards the cost of fixing the damage in the peninsula. However, that decision passed by a mere seven votes to five, with one abstention from Tipa Mahuta.

The payment had already been matched by Thames-Coromandel District Council. The regional council allocation will be sourced from the operations budget of the organisation's Coromandel office, and Hauraki/Coromandel division manager Julie Beaufill, speaking to the meeting via video link-up, confirmed they were easily able to accommodate the expenditure.

Among those around the regional council table not so keen on the $10,000 payment was Waipa/King Country-based councillor Stuart Kneebone.

"I'm uncomfortable with a one-off contribution," he said. "These events are clearly becoming more regular. We are treading on dangerous ground if we treat it in an ad hoc manner."

Councillor Bob Simcock described helping out private property owners as "dangerous territory" for the council to get into. "It's a caring and sympathetic response but it is not a principled response."

Others, such as councillor Clyde Graf were more at ease.

"If this is a precedent then so be it. [The June storm] was a big event."

Councillor Stuart Husband said he had been to see the damage first-hand and reports of the devastation could not be underestimated.

"There are rocks as big as a quarter of the size of this room lying in fields . . . these landowners were not insured."

Munro said the frequency and intensity of storms capable of doing such damage would increase thanks to the warming of New Zealand's climate.

"From a forward-thinking point of view it would pay to have that policy."

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- Waikato Times

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