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Civil Defence issues hazard warning for Waiho area

Civil Defence issues hazard warning for Waiho area

A hazard warning has today been issued by the Director of Civil Defence for an area near Franz Josef township.

The area affected covers part of the south bank of the Waiho River on the South Island’s West Coast, and includes the Franz Josef holiday park area. It does not include the main Franz Josef township.

Civil Defence Minister George Hawkins and Environment Minister Marian Hobbs supported the action after receiving a report to the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management showing a serious level of risk to life in the event of flooding in that area.

The report described the bed of the Waiho River, which drains the Franz Josef area, as building up over the past 60 or more years, with the riverbed over the last 15 years lifting by 8m.

Consequently, on the south bank of the river near Franz Josef township, businesses including a motor camp, lodge, motel units and a residential property, were now sited below the level of the riverbed and are at risk of flooding.

The report stated further protection measures to safeguard the holiday park area were no longer practicable. The report advised that the only long-term solution was relocation of the accommodation complexes and the prevention of redevelopment of the area.

Following the report, the government had decided immediate action was necessary to prevent any risk to life, the ministers said.

"Given that in heavy rain, the report states a landslide could occur within as little as one to two hours, it is important that people be warned of the risk," George Hawkins said.

Marian Hobbs said the government wanted to ensure Westland tourism remained viable and sustainable.

"We want people to be able to enjoy the natural beauty of the area in safety," Marian Hobbs said.

The ministers met yesterday in Wellington with a number of affected parties, including landowners and businesses, as well as representatives from the local regional and district councils to discuss possible action, including relocation of at-risk businesses and property concerned.

Marian Hobbs said the government had made a commitment to work with the local community and the affected businesses and residence to reach a safe solution.

The report is available on the http:// http://www.civildefence.govt.nz or by phoning 04 473 7363.

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