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Government boost for Thames coast flood protection

Wed, 22 Sep 2004

Government boost for Thames coast flood protection work

The government announced today that it will be contributing a multi-million dollar package to an integrated flood management plan for the Thames coast.

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The government announced today that it will be contributing a multi-million dollar package to an integrated flood management plan for the Thames coast.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said that the Thames coast had experienced five major flood events since 1981, three of which occurred in a recent 15 month period - the January 2002 storm, the June 2002 'weather bomb', and the Easter 2003 floods, all producing exceptional flood events.

"In the June 2002 flood, one person died. The direct and indirect costs associated with the five floods are estimated at $56 million. For the June 2002 flood alone, there were $13.2 million of direct costs to the Thames Coromandel District and other significant costs to the Crown, individual home owners, and businesses.

"Environment Waikato and the Thames Coromandel District Council have prepared an integrated flood management plan for the Thames coast for which they sought government support."

Helen Clark said that the government has agreed that support should be given to the councils' proposal with a total package likely to be around $10 million over the next four years.

"The Thames coast area has suffered greatly in recent years. The floods have brought loss of life, and there has been significant physical damage to homes, roads, businesses, and the environment.

"This is a unique package which brings local and central government agencies together with the aim of reducing risks associated with flooding in the area. It is the first time such an integrated approach to flood management had been utilised in New Zealand in many years.

"This package covers contributions to the removal of houses particularly at risk, essential engineering work, pest control to improve management of vegetation to slow flood water run-off and to prevent erosion, and consideration by Transit NZ of bridge upgrading to improve flood water drainage."

Specifically, the government's contribution to the flood protection work will lie in the following areas: § The government will contribute up to 30 per cent of the cost of purchasing 25 properties located in high risk flood areas, to a total value of $690,000. § The government will contribute up to 25 per cent of the cost of engineering works on Thames coast rivers and streams, to a cost of $890,000. § The government will undertake an integrated pest control operation on Conservation Department land in the catchment area consisting of both aerial and ground-based operations with a cost of $365,000 in the current financial year, and with funding rising to $1.366 million in 2005/6 and $955,000 in subsequent years. Capital investment of $101,000 will be required for the Conservation Department next financial year. § Taskforce Green workers will undertake some of the ground-based pest control work, and will be funded out of the Ministry of Social Development. § Transit NZ will give consideration to the councils' proposals for upgrading bridges on SH25 in order to improve flood water drainage. The cost of this work is estimated at $2.245 million.

Mr Hawkins said a range of factors - including steep and hilly terrain, high and intense rainfall, the occurrence of flash floods and the poor condition of vegetation and catchments due to pests - compounded problems in the area.

"The integrated plan's critical components, namely the state highway bridge upgrades, flood protection works and house removals, plus the pest management measures, are expected to reduce the risk to life in an area particularly vulnerable to river flooding and where a number of houses were located in natural floodways," Mr Hawkins said.

Conservation Minister Chris Carter said in addition to improving the resilience of vegetation during heavy rain, management of pests would enhance the biodiversity of an area already degraded by their activity.

"Using Taskforce Green workers for much of the pest management programme would provide an opportunity for ongoing employment for numbers of job seekers from early next year," he said.

Helen Clark said that the project was a major whole-of-government operation involving (at central government level) the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, the Department of Conservation, the Ministry of Social Development, and Transit New Zealand, and (at local government level) Environment Waikato and the Thames Coromandel District Council.

In addition, the government announced earlier this month a review of flood risk management and river control in New Zealand to ensure procedures are robust. The review is examining current approaches to river control and flood risk management, identify strengths and weaknesses and determine what changes are required.

ENDS

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