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Government announces grant for flood repairs

Government announces grant for flood repairs

Wednesday 6 July 2005

A $6.1 million grant for flood repairs from last winter's July 4 storm event will help take some of the "immense pressure" off river scheme ratepayers in the eastern Bay of Plenty, says Environment Bay of Plenty.

Prime Minister Helen Clark announced news of the grant from the Disaster Relief Fund when she visited Whakatane today.

Environment Bay of Plenty, Whakatane District Council and Opotiki District Council made a joint application for funding from central Government in September last year. Environment Bay of Plenty followed this up with a claim in April this year.

The regional council's costs from the July event totaled more than $11 million and included major repairs to stopbanks, canals and river protection works, including filling a stopbank breach on the Rangitaiki River. A second flood on New Year’s Eve added a further $1 million to the repair bill.

Since last year, Environment Bay of Plenty has spent $6.7 million dollars on repairs that could not be delayed for safety reasons, explains chairman John Cronin. Of that, $4 million is being funded by Environment Bay of Plenty’s reserves, pending this welcomed announcement from the Prime Minister. River scheme ratepayers are ultimately responsible for the majority of costs related to their schemes, "so this has naturally been a very difficult and uncertain time for them and for us", he explains. "We urgently needed to do the repairs and did so expecting to receive funding from the Government to help pay for them. So we are very pleased and hugely relieved to hear that Government has come across with significant funding for this very necessary work."

It was hoped the Government would contribute at least 60% of response and recovery costs. The council also asked the Government to consider lowering the set threshold before payments kick in. In the Bay of Plenty, this threshold stands at just under $900,000. It was felt that Rangitaiki Plains ratepayers, who had been hit by three major civil defence emergencies in 17 years, could not afford that much.

Mr Cronin acknowledged there was a small shortfall between "what we sought and what we have been given" by the Government. However, he did not yet know the full details of the grant. "Until we have more clarification on that, I can't really comment further," he said.

Environment Bay of Plenty also sought support for further work to reduce the risk to urban communities in the eastern Bay of Plenty. One such proposal was to build a protective ring bank around the Rangitaiki Plains township of Edgecumbe, to reduce the risk of flooding to that community, particularly in the event of any failure or overtopping of the main stopbank system.

Chief executive Jeff Jones said Environment Bay of Plenty did not expect to receive early approval from the Government for this other work, which was still at an early stage of development. "However, in consultation with Whakatane District Council, we look forward to more discussions with Government agencies on the matter," he adds.

ENDS

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