Region is bearing up in heavy weather
Recent extreme weather has been a big test for a number of our communities, especially on the Hauraki Plains, Coromandel Peninsula and the lower Waikato River catchment.
My fellow Waikato regional councillors and I inspected the damage in various areas after the latest pounding and saw the flood control system operating under near maximum load and some of the impacts first hand.
The cumulative weather effects, including record river levels and extensive surface flooding, have seen a number of properties taking a big whack.
Clearly recovery will take time in places.
The council’s flood management advisory services will be available to assist individual farmers with recovery and planning.
Staff will also look in detail at what happened and take on board any lessons learned, in consultation with catchment and community representatives.
It’s always essential we listen to community views – our local catchment committees are a key conduit for this and they help the council make important decisions about flood management.
One thing I am very pleased to report is that, despite the widespread flooding we saw, our flood management assets such as stopbanks generally stood up well.
There was overtopping of some stopbanks in Hauraki district in places but that’s a design feature of the scheme there.
When rivers rise beyond a certain level, water is supposed to flow over stopbanks and into specially designated ponding areas, reducing overall flood impacts.
Our staff also put in a huge amount of effort. They were on call 24/7, monitored flood levels and the condition of flood systems, maintained pumps and floodgates, and cleared screens of properties at direct risk. In places, we also used mobile pumps to clear floodwaters as quickly as possible and sandbags were laid to stop minor flows.
Protection for land and responding in this way reflects how flood management is a core part of regional council business, highlighted by the fact our Waihou-piako flood scheme in eastern Waikato is the country’s largest.
All up, we have more than $500 million worth of infrastructure and flood protection assets. Without that investment, for example, large parts of the Hauraki Plains couldn’t be farmed successfully.
Regionally, we provide more than 600 kilometres of stopbanks, 122 pump stations and 481 floodgates.
The capital value of areas that receive a direct benefit from the Waihou-piako scheme is some $15.8 billion, and the annual value added produced by agricultural land protected there is estimated at $770 million.
In the lower Waikato River catchment, the capital value of areas that benefit directly from our flood protection is around $3.2 billion, while annual value added from agricultural land there is estimated at $190 million.
This year we’ll spend more than $11.5 million – funded by general and targeted rates – on our schemes.
That annual spend, and the overall half a billion dollars-plus investment in flood scheme infrastructure and assets, certainly proves its worth in circumstances such as seen recently.
Along with the hardiness of our farmers and other landowners, this investment helps us all be a formidable team when it comes to weathering what nature inevitably throws at us.
Waikato Regional Council chairman Alan Livingston.