Urgent calls for flood protection investment

Flooding in Welcome Bay in December last year. Photo: Chloe Calway

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Toi Moana is urging Central Government to prioritise co-investment in flood protection, warning that the time to act is now.

The call follows a recent report, which was tabled at a Council meeting today, stating that New Zealander’s lives and livelihoods are in danger from increasingly severe and frequent flood risks if we don’t adapt and investigate new ways of protecting our communities.

The report was commissioned by Te Uru Kahika, the collective of chief executives from regional and unitary councils, with the governing body endorsing the findings.

The organisation is advocating for Central Government to invest $1.5 billion of funding into flood protection schemes over the next 10 years, to ensure New Zealand’s flood infrastructure continues to protect our communities – now and in the future.

Flood protection is the first line of defence in heavy rain events and Toi Moana currently manages more than $420 million worth of flood protection assets, including nearly 400km of stopbanks.

Like other regional councils, Toi Moana continually invests in repairs, maintenance, and upgrades on our river schemes.

The challenge is that there needs to be a step-change in the performance of these schemes to keep up with the new environment that climate change presents.

This step-change means regional councils can no longer fund this through regional rates alone and must look to more sustainable solutions for flood protection.

Sitting behind these river schemes are quite comprehensive crown assets – such as roads, railways and telecommunications – but the structures and work that protect these assets from flooding is funded entirely by local ratepayers.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Chairman, Doug Leeder, supports the report and says the costs of protecting our communities is skyrocketing.

“Climate change is going to increase the likelihood and frequency of heavy rain events. These changes are already putting our flood protection infrastructure under pressure, requiring greater investment in the repairs, maintenance and upgrades on our river schemes.

“We can’t rely on our local ratepayers to take the full burden of these increasing costs.

“While we’ve welcomed the one-off funding from Central Government’s Covid-19 recovery fund for five shovel ready projects around our rohe, these are reactive investments rather than longer term strategic co-investments.

“The high costs of repairing damage to our region’s river schemes after the 2004, 2010, 2011 and 2017 local floods shows that spending money on preventative measures is much more cost effective then spending money on the recovery and clean up.

“It’s clear that one-off and after the fact recovery funding from Central Government is not a sustainable and adequate solution.

“We need Central Government to step up and commit to long-term co-investment, and this cannot be left any longer. We want to see dedicated long-term co-investment funding for flood protection in the 2023 Budget.”

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Toi Moana background:

The Bay of Plenty is prone to flooding and one of the core roles at Bay of Plenty Regional Council Toi Moana is to help minimise the risk this poses to our people, property and livelihoods.

Toi Moana owns and maintains many flood projection assets throughout the Bay of Plenty with a value in excess of $420 million including:

  • Nearly 400km of stopbanks
  • Nearly 3km of concrete flood walls
  • 140 flood gates
  • 12 pump stations.

Currently in the Bay of Plenty we mitigate against flood damage and issues from land drainage through several systems or what we call River and Drainage Schemes.

The schemes are designated areas of land where we maintain and upgrade flood defences (including stopbanks, pumps, flood gates etc.), manage riverbank erosion risks and undertake drain maintenance.

Ratepayers across the region contribute to river and drain management. However, if you live within a scheme, you pay an additional targeted rate for the benefits you receive.

The only Central Government funding Bay of Plenty Regional Council currently receives for flood protection is:

·        One-off funding through the Resilient River Communities Covid-19 recovery fund, including the following projects:

  • 75% of the $10.9 million Stage 6 of the Rangitāiki Floodway and 75% of the $2.8 million Rangitāiki Spillway.
  • $2.25 million of the $5.0 million Rangitāiki floodwall replacement project.
  • 75% of the $3.5 million for Ngongotahā Flood Mitigation.
  • 75% of the $4.0 million of the first stage of Whakatāne Futureproof
  • 75% of the $2.5 million Kaituna Mole upgrade and surrounding amenity enhancements.

·        In the event of a significant flood, Central Government will contribute 60% of the cost of repairing existing assets, provided it meets defined criteria.

Te Uru Kahika background: Te Uru Kahika - Regional and Unitary Councils Aotearoa | Ko Tātou LGNZ

Full report: Reports | Ko Tātou LGNZ

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