The Waikato Regional Council will ask landowners whether it should step up its stopbank maintenance programme after a report showed 15 per cent of stopbanks had deficiencies.
Stopbanks are considered a key flood protection asset and are located primarily in the lower Waikato and Waihou Piako catchment zones.
Much of the council's 620 kilometres of stopbanks is more than 50 years old.
Regional council asset management programme manager Amon Martin yesterday told councillors the annual plan process provided the council with an opportunity to consult with affected landowners on its stopbanks.
Mr Martin said landowners could be asked if they wanted the council to speed up its 10-year maintenance programme to address the unsatisfactory stopbanks.
The council has set an objective of having 89 per cent of all stopbanks being able to cope with a one-in-100-year flood event.
Over the next three financial years, the council has budgeted $2.2 million annually for high priority works.
It is estimated $22m could be needed over 10 years to improve flood protection stopbanks.
For the majority of the unsatisfactory stopbanks, the main risk is that productive farmland may be taken out of use for longer than desired during serious flood events.
Under the Soil Conservation and Rivers Control Act, the regional council has a responsibility for establishing, monitoring and maintaining stopbanks.
Mr Martin said legal advice from solicitors Tompkins Wake indicated that although it was not always possible to immediately fix all stopbank deficiencies, the council had to act reasonably in prioritising its works. Tompkins Wake also said the council should communicate with landowners over the current level of flood protection, as well as work in place to remedy the stopbanks.
Councillor Theresa Stark questioned whether ratepayers were getting "value for money" if 15 per cent of stopbanks were deemed below par.
In reply, council finance group manager Mike Garrett said greater protection would come at more cost.
Councillors voted in favour of consulting landowners through the 2013-14 annual plan on the proposed stopbank maintenance programme and to assess if the community wanted to bring the scheduled work forward.
In a split 8-4 vote, Waikato regional councillors yesterday signed off on its 2013-14 draft budget, with a proposed rates revenue of $78.253m, amounting to an average rates increase of 2.9 per cent to existing ratepayers.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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