Communities at risk will not survive if central government does not help fund flood protection

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OPINION: Images of damage across New Zealand have filled our screens – including stories of resilience and heroism from those most affected by recent extreme weather events. These events are a stark reminder of the important role flood protection programs play in defending our communities at risk.

The shocks of these floods will be felt by affected communities long after the news has disappeared from national headlines. What is vital is that the lessons learned from these latest disasters do not fade with them.

Floods are the first common natural hazard in Aotearoa. We now face, on average, one major flood every eight months.

Severe flooding in Westport in July was cited as an example of the cost of not thinking about climate change.

Peter Meecham / Stuff

Severe flooding in Westport in July was cited as an example of the cost of not thinking about climate change.

Research into the effectiveness of existing flood protection programs in New Zealand has shown that while they cannot completely prevent major disasters from impacting our communities, to date they have ensured safety and security against the full force of the most extreme and hardest hit events.

READ MORE:
* Extreme weather events remind us how vulnerable we are and why we need to prepare accordingly
* The money for flood protection has dried up in the last century
* The regional council supports a funding partnership with the central government for flood protection

These programs protect approximately 1.5 million hectares of our most productive and intensively used lands and more than 100 towns and villages across the country. They offer a value of about five times the amount of their capital per year. But times are changing, and they are changing rapidly.

Climate change will inevitably make weather events more frequent and important.

The Commission’s report on climate change Ināia tonu nei: a low-emission future for Aotearoa notes the need to increase resilience and manage risk.

Local government leaders agree that further investment in flood protection programs is a critical first step in adapting to the impacts of climate change. Without it, we will not achieve greater resilience.

The aftermath of a major landslide that closed part of Queen Charlotte Drive near Havelock after heavy rains this month.

SCOTT HAMMOND / STUFF

The aftermath of a major landslide that closed part of Queen Charlotte Drive near Havelock after heavy rains this month.

“Fit for the future” solutions must also take into account important ecological, environmental, global watershed and te mana o te wai / iwi considerations, as well as land use planning, managed withdrawal and land preparation. the community.

The regional councils estimate that the combined investment cost of the regional and central governments for modernizing flood protection programs is $ 350 million per year. This is at least $ 150 million more than the levels of capital and operating expenditure proposed by the regional council.

Over the past three decades, Crown assets have been protected by local flood protection programs. This includes rail and road infrastructure and, more broadly, the efficient functioning of the economy and communities. All of this protection comes at a cost that is largely covered by the targeted regional and local taxpayers.

SCOTT HAMMOND / Stuff.co.nz

Acting Emergency Management Minister Kris Faafoi traveled to the Marlborough Sounds to see the extent of the flood damage.

Local government leaders are committed to addressing the increased risk of flooding head-on with sustainable, long-term solutions that match the scale and intensity of the challenges ahead. To achieve this, the central government must be at the co-investment table. Local communities cannot finance this alone. Central and local governments must work together to meet the long-term needs of communities.

Government assistance announced in recent months will help with the cleanup and recovery in the immediate future. The $ 217 million MBIE investment from Kānoa – Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit through the Covid-19 ‘Ready to Go’ Response and Stimulus Fund is also welcomed. This amount is distributed among the regions over a three-year period to support the upgrading of 55 flood protection projects. Funding of this nature is a vital source of co-investment.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Chairman Doug Leeder also chairs the New Zealand Local Government Regional Cluster.  He says local government alone cannot afford to fund flood protection for communities at risk.

Christel Yardley / Tips

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Chairman Doug Leeder also chairs the New Zealand Local Government Regional Cluster. He says local government alone cannot afford to fund flood protection for communities at risk.

The central government faces a lot of financial pressures, but the harsh reality is that it is not yet enough. Communities cannot afford to wait. The recent floods sound the alarm that climate change is with us now. The risks are real and significant. They also become more and more complex and difficult as time passes.

A committed and sustained co-investment response from central government and regional councils is needed. Central government investment in protecting our communities cannot take a back seat to other priorities. The consequences of such an action are increasingly unthinkable.

Doug Leeder is Chairman of the New Zealand Local Government Regional Cluster and Chairman of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.


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