Cost of weather events mounting as councils look to establish reserve funds

An aerial shot of Hook Swamp Rd, near Makikihi, illustrates the extent of the July weather event.

An aerial shot of Hook Swamp Rd, near Makikihi, illustrates the extent of the July weather event.

Two South Canterbury councils are looking to establish emergency reserve funds to tackle the cost of weather events, following widespread flooding across the region in July.

Waimate District Mayor Craig Rowley has signalled the plan to establish a fund in light of "weather events becoming more common".

Rowley said widespread flood damage to roads in the Waimate District in July had cost $650,000 to date. The council had spent about $248,000 of that, with a claim lodged to the NZ Transport Agency for the outstanding amount.

"We want to start putting a bit more away as a bit of a buffer because of these increasing weather events," Rowley said.

"It will come from the general rate and be earmarked for special weather events."

Hakataramea Valley roads had been particularly affected by the torrential rain and flooding, with caution still required as contractors continued with the cleanup.

The remaining repairs were expected to be completed in the next four to five weeks.

Mackenzie District Mayor Graham Smith said his council was looking at formalising a disaster relief fund from 2018, with the aim of putting $150,000 away each year.

He said the July event had cost $630,000, of which the Mackenzie District Council had already spent $300,000 on repairs.

Smith estimated his council could receive up to 60 per cent of the $630,000 from the National Land Transport Fund's (NLTF) funding assistance rate (FAR).   

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When a land transport activity undertaken by a council or other approved organisation qualifies for funding from the NLTF, the FAR determines the proportion of the approved costs of that activity that will be paid from the fund.

Smith said percentages were variable, depending on the case.

"We've had to repair some bridges and culverts," he said.

"With roading you have to carry the debt until they recompense you so we are working towards having a reserve fund to bridge the gaps."

The reserve fund would likely be formalised in 2018 as part of the council's Long Term Plan, he said.

"I can see where the Waimate District Council is coming from in terms of NZTA with regards to weather events and roading.

"You can have a flood situation where it easily runs into millions of dollars.

"We are just going to gradually establish a fund, about $150,000 a year to cover disasters."

The two smaller South Canterbury councils are following the lead of their Timaru counterpart. Timaru District Mayor Damon Odey said his council's disaster recovery fund had a balance of more than $2 million.

Roading damage from July's floods was estimated at $800,000, which had been funded from the disaster recovery fund, he said.

Odey said the council had been putting away $200,000 a year towards disaster recovery costs. 

The infrastructure committee had considered a report from the land transport manager seeking direction on how the road infrastructure initial response and recovery damage repairs from the July event should be funded, he said.

Concern was also expressed at the damage done to parks, including the cycle and walkway network.

The original intention had been to use the operating budget to fund remedial work and a report was prepared by the parks and services manager.

Odey said it was confirmed last week that repair work would be funded from the disaster recovery fund.

"We have already decided that we need to be prepared for these things."











 - Stuff


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