Concern around NZ's underinvestment in anti-flood stopbanks

Sat, Feb 4

While the spotlight is on Auckland's flood recovery, in the background there's work underway to protect other parts of the country, and concern around underinvestment in stopbank networks.

Southland is no stranger to flooding events, the most recent being only three years ago, and is remodelling, reshaping and filling gaps in its stopbank network as part of a climate resilience programme.

A lack of investment in stopbanks is "the greatest threat to our region right now", Environment Southland's Randel Beal said.

"The predicted weather patterns — we are expecting more flooding events over the next 20 to 30 years — they'll be similar to the floods in the 70s and 80s, so while these banks have done their job over the past 20 to 30 years we need to make sure they can continue to do their job."

Gore District Mayor Ben Bell said the problem's only going to get worse.

"It's vitally important for residents that they're protect from floods especially with climate change," Bell said.

In 2020 the Government provided more than $200 million to support councils working to protect their communities from flooding.

However, the Internal Affairs Department acknowledges there is a need to greater investment, with stopbanks being just one measure.

"A report put together by regional councils and unitary authorities have estimated that figure over the next ten years to be $1.5 billion dollars of under investment, said University of Canterbury's Kaley Crawford-Flett.

"So as you can imagine relying solely on a ratepayer base for each region is not going to meet that shortfall.

"We can have land development exclusion zones, we can have better flood forecasting and warning systems for our residents, or there are harder engineering solutions like building higher banks or upgrading stop bank networks," Crawford-Flett said.


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