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Residents ‘Losing Hope’ Over Hardie Ave Flooding

A resident of the streets around Hilldale Reserve in Kawerau says a cheaper and quicker solution is needed to its flooding problem.

The council has yet to decide whether it go ahead with a repair plan that isn’t pleasing all the residents.

John Whitehead spoke at Kawerau District Council’s submissions hearing on Wednesday, saying two years after the flooding, some of the affected residents were “losing hope in life”.

He said they were mostly older people, and some were quite ill.

“We’ve got people there who can’t live in their homes because parts of their homes are unlivable. They can’t get them fixed because they’re waiting for their insurance companies to pay, and the insurance company won’t pay because they’re waiting for the council to make a decision.”

The streets around Hardie Avenue were subject to flooding during the persistent rainfall over the summer of 2022 to 2023. The area also flooded during the 2017 ex-cyclone Debbie, which caused the major Edgecumbe flooding event.

The council is budgeting $250,000 for a $1 million Hardie Avenue dewatering project and has applied for Waka Kōtahi New Zealand Transport Authority funding for the remaining $750,000. The project includes the use of swales, drainage pipes and concrete u-channels.

Mayor Faylene Tunui said the council had been engaging in a “very close and intimate conversation with the residents at Hardie Avenue and Owen, Emme Allan and Julian roads”.

“We’ve got our Red Bands on and we’ve walked that whenua, so we can see it, touch it, feel it ... so, we can look at ways we can help the families that live there.”

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A question about how council should act if the Waka Kotahi application is not successful was put to the community in council’s Annual Plan 2024-2025 consultation document.

Mr Whitehead said the whole project needed reassessing.

“The project you are proposing is half the length it was before. It only helps half the people. It takes care of surface water not ground water.”

He suggested an alternative approach of dewatering the reserve as a cheaper and more effective option.

“We need some action now,” Mr Whitehead said.

Mr Whitehead was also one of the 38 submitters opposed to the council spending $150,000 to investigate the viability of a secure asbestos containment site.

The council has already spent $50,000 in the past two years on plans and costings for the site.

"From history, and work in that area, every 10 or 20 years regulations change.”

He said it was no reflection on the council’s competence to manage the site.

“If central government makes a change and wants that dump moved, who’s liable? You are. I wouldn’t go there. Wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole.”

A council spokesperson said council wished to thank all the community for engaging throughout the consultation process and all our submitters, acknowledging those who took the opportunity to speak in person to the mayor and elected members.

"Council will received a report that analyses all the submissions at next Wednesday’s meeting where they will consider all submissons and deliberate on the feedback."

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