Infrastructure Climate Resilience Projects

In August 2020 central government’s Provincial Development Unit announced $26.9 million of climate resilience funding for Horizons. This will go towards four projects that primarily aim to build community resilience to protect against and mitigate the effects of climate change. These projects are in Foxton, Lower Manawatū, Palmerston North, and Rangitīkei.

The announcement forms part of central government’s response to the economic impacts of COVID-19, investing in (among other things) shovel-ready infrastructure projects. We estimate the total cost to be $35.9 million, meaning central government is meeting 75% of the cost. The focus is a part of the creation of jobs in time of need - we’ve conservatively estimated the number of jobs created as a result of this funding as 36 across Horizons and external consultants and contractors.

On 25 August 2020 Council formally approved the projects put forward and confirmed the 25% ‘local share’ funding of $9 million. The projects form part of Horizons' key strategic direction for managing flood hazards and are consistent with our Infrastructure Strategy. The projects are ones either committed to or intended to be committed to in Council’s proposed 2021-31 Long-term Plan – Council has agreed to accelerate the delivery of these projects in order to secure the funding on offer from central government.
 

Foxton

Foxton is vulnerable to flooding, with heavy rain over the town often coinciding with high groundwater levels and full drains. If the drainage network that serves the town and the rural catchment to the east of the town is left in its current state the impacts of flooding will worsen with time, given its growth and the effects of climate change.

Horizons and Horowhenua District Council have been responding jointly to this issue, with funding set aside in the both councils’ current Long-term Plans.
 
The mitigation strategy proposes the enlargement and upgrade of the drains, culverts and stopbanks along the eastern side of the town, abd diverting floodwater away from Purcell Street and into the Whirokino network. Much of the work addresses systemic issues that have persisted for many years, including sections of stopbanking that failed in the devastating floods of 2015.
 
This funding announcement means we now have 75 per cent of the funding required for this $6 million project, which we will be able to accelerate over the next three years.
 

Lower Manawatū

Horizons has been investing on behalf of ratepayers in increased flood protection standards for the lower Manawatū area since 2006, as a result of the impacts of the devastating 2004 floods. This has included raising/rebuilding stopbanks, replacing the Kopane Bridge and constructing the Burkes Pump Station.
 
Debt incurred with that investment is limiting Horizons ability to invest in further strengthening of the stopbank network, with around half the operating budget being used to service debt. Compounding matters, we are acutely aware of the economic impacts of COVID-19 resulting in a reduced (albeit slightly) operating budget in the current financial year. This cash injection of $11.25 million from central government through the Provincial Development Unit is very timely in allowing a continuation of that investment but in a manner that limits the impact on ratepayers.
 
The project has an overall cost of $15 million with work targeting further strengthening of the stopbank network but also looking to build resilience at key locations. We’re also looking to undertake some environmental enhancements and to modify parts of the stopbank network to lessen the impacts that silt deposition on the berms has on flood protection standards.
 
The $15 million project is anticipated to take three years and includes the potential to create 20 jobs.
 

Palmerston North

This project primarily focusses on recommendations from an independent 2019 report by Tonkin + Taylor which assessed Palmerston North’s flood defences. Funding of $5.25 million from Kānoa, the government’s Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit, has enabled Horizons to now commence work on the reports recommended upgrades to the cities flood protection. Preparatory work is currently underway and construction will commence in the summer of 2021/22. 

The scope of the work includes upgrades to current stopbanks and replacement of a number of aging assets, along with new work which will enhance public access to the Manawatū River and Mangaone Stream.

Along the Mangaone Stream several pieces of ageing infrastructure, such as retaining walls and other flood protection assets, are being upgraded – from below Flyers Line to the confluence of the Manawatū River. Work is expected to begin in the summer of 2021/22 and will include realigning a section of the Mangaone Stream stopbank near Pioneer Highway.

One of the key enhancement project Horizons is planning, in consultation with Rangitāne and Palmerston North City Council (PNCC), is upgrading the area around the old gasworks drain towards the northern end of the Manawatū River bridle path. Plans include changing the current shady and often damp  area to a river access path with bright open spaces, riparian planting, artwork and signage identifying the significance of the site. This work will begin in 2021 with the removal of the poplar trees currently shading the site.

The completion date for all central government’s Kānoa funded work is March 2024.
 

Rangitīkei

The fourth project also focusses on resilience as it relates to the Rangitīkei River, specifically the reach from the Bulls Bridge to the sea. Extensive stopbanking exists along the north side of the river and in 2018 the river came close to carving itself a new corridor several kilometres long as the photo below shows.

We need to change our management approach for this reach of the river to avert a future disaster which would cost many millions to repair. Funding from central government will also enable us to place more emphasis on the biodiversity values of the lower reach of the river and to improve public access. This work package has received 75 per cent of the estimated $5.2 million needed.

Update March 2021

Conceptual design has been finalised and engagement with landowners and Ngāti Apa continues. The first stages of exotic vegetation has commenced and planting plans are being established with native planting expected late winter 2021. A consent application is being prepared for a global gravel consent and is anticipated to be granted late in 2021.