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Critical flood mitigation options being explored

Flood protection

Wairoa’s Flood Protection Stakeholder Group is exploring a range of critical flood mitigation options, including spillways and stopbanks, to provide future flood protection for the township.

Following Cyclone Gabrielle, the Government earmarked $70 million for Wairoa to develop flood mitigation to a 1:100-year level to shift Wairoa’s 627 Category 2A properties to Category 2C and, in future, Category 1.

A Hawke’s Bay Regional Council engineering team has developed and tested models based on community discussions, thoughts, and ideas, and river data with options based on science, hydrology, and computer-generated modelling.   

The stakeholder group's task is to provide local knowledge and a grassroots Wairoa voice on the options being presented.

While the stakeholder group is an initial sounding board, options will be shared with the community for further engagement and feedback – hopefully as early as next month. Public presentations will include the range of options explored and the rationale behind the findings and recommendations.

Final stakeholder and community preferences will then go to the Tripartite Partners, comprising Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Tātau Tātau o Te Wairoa Trust and Wairoa District Council, with the final decision resting with the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council as the authority responsible for flood protection.

At Friday’s (09.02.24) meeting, stakeholders considered refined options based on additional work carried out in the field over the past weeks. Considerations include hydrological, property, ecological, cultural, geotechnical, and archaeological impacts and costings.

The stakeholder group stressed the importance of cultural impacts on intergenerational land, taonga such as marae, and challenges with whenua Māori under multiple ownership.

They also expressed concern that the longer it takes to find a solution, the longer some homeowners within Category 2A have to wait to be able to rebuild their flood-impacted homes.

Once confirmation is received that construction of flood protection for Wairoa will proceed, it is expected to take affected properties from Category 2A to 2C, and in future, Category 1.  A flood protection scheme will assist in managing future severe weather events, providing certainty for homeowners and businesses.  It will also allow whānau to stay in their communities and prevent properties from falling under Category 3 and the voluntary buy-out programme.

Independent group chairman Lawrence Yule said the longer it takes to decide on an option, the longer Wairoa is unprotected, and people are in limbo.

He explained that, based on the decision-making timeframe, landowner negotiations, the consenting process, and construction timeframes, the completion of a flood protection scheme could still be years away.

“All the options have impacts, and none of them will be perfect. While the group has not selected a final option or options at this stage, we are starting to see an indication of some preferences.”

The stakeholder group has also requested whatever flood mitigation option is selected, the Wairoa River mouth's active management needs to be improved.

The group has also stressed the importance of an extensive peer review of any proposal to ensure it is the best solution for Wairoa.

Wairoa Deputy Mayor and stakeholder group member Denise Eaglesome-Karekare said there is no flood mitigation option that does not impact our community. “Doing nothing is not an option, we have to find the best solution for our future.” 

The group will meet again within the next fortnight and hopes to finalise its preferred options by the end of February and share these with the public in March.

19 February 2024

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