Re­gion is bear­ing up in heavy weather

South Waikato News - - Your Paper, Your Place - ALAN LIV­INGSTON

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.

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