West Coast Regional Council defends flood wall progress

Many residents of Westport were left homeless after the July 2021 floods. Photo/George Heard

LDR_STRAP
LDR_STRAP

The lack of progress in flood protection for Westport can be attributed to an ‘insufficient appetite’ to actually go on and do so, says the West Coast Regional Council as it defended its role in an open letter today to residents of Westport.

The council said physical works to start building a new flood defense are expected to start within six months. Chief executive Heather Mabin said flood protection for Westport was not a new topic.

“It’s been brought up by successive councils for many years now but there hasn’t been enough appetite” to push it forward, she said.

“That has now changed”, with submissions to the 2021 long-term plan as well as community feedback since last September having been “heard”.

Mabin said the council had agreed to move the $10.2 million flood protection project forward on the condition that LTP consultation submissions be reviewed and the adverse effects of the flood protection project be investigated.

The negative impact on landowners of the planned flood protection works worried some. Mabin said the council’s consultation material highlighted that the project would focus on survey and design for the first year – the bulk of the work undertaken to date.

Council staff worked “incredibly hard” to meet the proposed annual schedule, she said.
A model of the lower Buller River and Orowaiti River created in 2014, examined after the July 2021 flood, was found to be very accurate in predicting where the water would go and at what rate, Mabin said.

Emergency services check residents trapped by floodwaters in Cobden, north of Greymouth, during the July 2021 flood. Photo/George Heard
Emergency services check residents trapped by floodwaters in Cobden, north of Greymouth, during the July 2021 flood. Photo/George Heard

“There seems to be a good balance between how much water needs to go down the (Buller) river and how much goes down the Orowaiti.”

Regional council engineers were working with consultants on the best option for the Orowaiti. The newly formed Westport Rating District Joint Committee would make recommendations to the regional council on the best options, at the committee’s inaugural meeting tomorrow, and a full council meeting would consider its recommendations next week.

“It is expected that there will be work that can begin immediately.”

Negotiations with landowners regarding the construction of flood protection on their properties for the most part would also begin.

“The land tenure and consent processes can take at least six months.”

Elna M. Lemons