Buller District Council
31 August 2021
The Buller District Council wants to work with the West Coast Regional Council (WCRC) on a flood protection plan for Westport that results in a more resilient town.
Council has made the request as part of its submission to WCRC’s 2021 – 2031 Draft Long Term Plan. In its submission council did not support the WCRC’s preferred flood protection option for Westport.
Instead, council would like a new plan to be developed that better positions Westport to withstand future flood events.
Following an independent review commissioned by council, it believes the current WCRC approach would not deliver sufficient long-term flood protection to the town.
Buller District Mayor, Jamie Cleine says the WCRC’s preferred option would be costly and didn’t factor in important issues such as the effects of climate change.
“It is essential that we get this right. We need a long-term solution that enhances the community and provides the security for continued investment in Westport.”
Following July’s floods council sought advice from an independent firm, Tonkin and Taylor, who engaged LandRiverSea and River Edge Consulting to undertake some additional modelling to better understand the impact of possible flood management interventions.
Mayor Cleine believes this work showed the favoured WCRC option did not address:
Effects of climate change – which would increase the maximum projected flow of the Buller River; and result in rising sea levels.
The impact on river levels of debris under bridges.
The impact of earthquakes on proposed flood protection works, which would be built in areas prone to liquification.
The impacts of stormwater, and the ability for stormwater to be discharged from Westport to the river environs during a flooding or heavy rainfall event.
“In fact, the information shows that with the significant flows that came into Westport via the Orowaiti River the proposed option would have done little if anything to stop the damage that occurred in the July flood,” he says.
Council also doesn’t believe the costs as estimated are sufficient for the completion of the flood protection works. The option doesn’t take the impact on private property into account, or plan for exiting water during a flood.
Mayor Cleine says council would prefer the development of a plan which takes these issues into account as part of a comprehensive process that considers options.
“Such as raising building platforms and crucially whether some areas of the town remain suitable for housing.”
“It is important that we talk to the community about any proposed options. It is ratepayers that will be footing the bill for flood protection works and it is essential they are consulted and that the chosen package meets community needs.”