Council supports call for central government to co-invest in flood protection

At their Catchment Operations committee meeting today, Horizons Regional councillors received the Central Government Co-Investment in Flood Protection Schemes Supplementary Report, released by Te Uru Kahika – Regional and Unitary Councils Aotearoa last month.

Horizons chair Rachel Keedwell says Council fully supports the call for central government to prioritise sustained co-investment in flood protection across New Zealand to meet increased flood hazard risks arising from climate change.

“As noted in the report, the sector invests $200 million a year in flood protection schemes across the country. However, this large investment still falls short of the additional $150 million per annum that is required to meet critical flood protection needs, and that is what we are calling on central government for,” says Cr Keedwell.

“New Zealander’s lives and livelihoods are in very real danger from increasingly severe and frequent flood risks arising from climate change. Over the past three years, when the sector first sought funding from central government, ten more significant flood events have occurred in places such as Northland, Tairawhiti, West Coast, Canterbury, and Southland.

“In Horizons’ case, we have had some of our protection schemes pushed to within mere millimetres of their capacity, and have undertaken numerous flood gate operations.

“Many of our communities, including Manawatū last year, Whanganui in 2015, and the wider Manawatū in 2004, know first-hand just how devastating a significant flood can be.

“Not only do these large flood events affect people, properties, and local economies, they cause disruption to Crown assets such as roads, railway, lifelines infrastructure, and other central government-supported projects and assets such as community centres and marae. Government pays no rates contribution to the protection of these.

“Council does acknowledge the investment we received in 2020 through the Infrastructure Climate Resilience Fund, as part of central government’s Covid-19 recovery initiatives. Alongside the $26.9 million Horizons received, our ratepayers have contributed a further $9 million towards flood protection projects in Foxton, Rangitīkei, Palmerston North and the Lower Manawatū.

“This co-investment is a great example of how regional councils can accelerate work on flood protection schemes that are already planned or underway.

“However, for Horizons this investment only supports four of Council’s 34 river and drainage schemes which include over 500km of stopbanks, 1,100 km of drains, 22 pumping stations, and 53 dams.

“These schemes are funded through general and scheme rates, and have an asset value of $800 million, providing $15 billion worth of benefit value to the region.

“Since 2019, Regional Councils and Unitary Authorities have committed to increasing annual regional funding for flood protection by a further combined $25 million. Our communities have shown their support for increased flood protection through our collective Long-Term Plans.

“With the escalation of extreme weather events, we now need central government to step up and meet this challenge alongside our ratepayers, who are currently paying the bill for critical flood protection in response to climate change.

“Flooding is the number one naturally occurring hazard in Aotearoa. Regional and unitary councils will continue to advocate to central government for co-investment solutions which deliver to the needs of communities now and into the future.”