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Development of a Dangerous Dams Policy

July 27, 2006


Development of a Dangerous Dams Policy for Canterbury

Environment Canterbury is proposing a “Dangerous Dams Policy” for the Canterbury region, as required under Section 161 of the Building Act 2004. The Act requires regional councils to develop a policy to address issues associated with dangerous dams.

Environment Canterbury’s draft policy, approved by Council today, provides background information that explains why the policy is being developed and defines “dams” and “dangerous dams”. It also outlines the actions Environment Canterbury can take to ensure the safety of a dam.

Environment Canterbury proposes a consultative approach with the owners of any dam that is considered to be dangerous. However the legislation, and in turn the policy, do provide a number of tools that ECan may use if the necessary action does not occur. "Like serving the owners or relevant parties with work orders, or if necessary even carrying out the work ourselves, in order to ensure a dam does not pose a danger to lives and properties,” says Andrew Willis, senior policy analyst at Environment Canterbury.

He points out that Canterbury is home to a number of New Zealand’s most significant hydraulic structures. In particular, the Waitaki catchment is home to several large dams, including the largest earth-filled embankment dam in the country - Lake Benmore.

“Many of the region’s dams are constructed on watercourses and are therefore subject to flooding. It’s also clear from historical records and regional geological studies that Canterbury lies within a zone capable of generating large and relatively frequent earthquakes. Dams must therefore be constructed and maintained to take account of a potentially significant earthquake,” he says.

The draft policy identifies three priorities for dangerous dams. These are:

- ensure public safety at all times

- have regard to economic welfare

- have regard to heritage values.

The chairman of Environment Canterbury’s hazards and emergency management committee, Cr Angus McKay, has welcomed the development of a policy. “Hopefully that will prevent a situation like the Opuha Dam failure in 1997 from happening again,” he says.

The draft Dangerous Dams Policy will be advertised for public submissions this weekend and the consultation period will close at the end of August.

Copies of the draft policy and summary document may be inspected at ECan’s customer service centres or requested free of charge over the phone 03 353 9007 or toll free on 0800 EC INFO (0800 324 636), or downloaded from http://www.ecan.govt.nz/dangerousdams/


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