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Do we need expensive upgrades to the Motueka River stopbanks?

March 25th, 2010
(This initial post was from material circulated by the District Council to promote discussion. We'll use that as a platform for this discussion thread.)

Are you concerned about flooding in Motueka?

Investigations have shown the current engineering fitness of the Motueka Stopbanks would not hold up under any degree of severe flooding and are unlikely to adequately protect the local residents and their assets.

The current flood control and stopbanks were discussed at length by submitters during the Plan's consultation process. While many submitters acknowledged the need to have the project continue, it was on the condition that adequate ongoing public consultation was an integral part of the process, at least to the detailed planning stage.

At the heart of the conditional agreement by the community was the need to identify what risks were posed by the current state of affairs; what is an acceptable level of risk and what is the community prepared to pay for? To reach an appropriate outcome the concerns and risks identified by the community of Motueka will be analysed, possible options identified and an evaluation of these options will be undertaken.

This evaluation may include: predicted community outcomes from future events; resource management planning protection options; community affordability; climate variability factors; possibility of differential protection levels for parts of the community; and the physical engineering design criteria needed to make it happen. The process is one of fluidity and other criteria will become apparent.

By developing a range of solutions, each with their own risks attached, interested people will be able to gain a basic understanding of the sort of operational outcomes eventually adopted as the most acceptable solution.

A separate process will be run in parallel to investigate the related actions and issues that will need to be considered as a result of specific options being taken. These actions may include issues relating to the land tenure, Tasman Resource Management Plan actions, current and future use of land, obtaining of material to build the project if required, construction access and long-term maintenance.

Feedback provided by the public as part of the Ten-Year Plan indicates that a range of options and their merits and drawbacks will be welcomed by the community. Apart from a number of misconceptions about which banks are most at risk and where, feedback from the community to date indicates that there is a wide and varied level of acceptable risk within the communities alongside the Motueka River.

The greatest risk to the community is the belief that the most likely failure will be the over-topping or washing away of the stock bank at any section of the banks. The greatest actual risk lies in the tested proof that the current stopbanks were never adequately compacted in the centre and are very susceptible to piping and the failure of the banks due to consequential slumping. This means that the existing stopbanks are unlikely to be able to survive a flood running bank high for six hours.

Project investigation shows that when predicted risks were analysed a protection life of up to 12 hours will be needed.

The first part of the puzzle is underway - to listen to the community and identify the risks and concerns that exist in relation to flooding.

There are no answers or solutions at this time. Your concerns will feed into the process of understanding what possible solutions may work. Please take the opportunity to tell us your concerns.

You can do this in a number of ways:
 -  come and talk to us at the Feedback Forums (noted in the events calendar of this website),
 -  talk to us at the Sunday market,
 -  or write to the project team at Tasman District Council.

Comment by Jim Butler:
[Posted 25 March 2010]

Nowhere in the notice advertised in our local papers on this matter does it say that during the last 50 years there have been many large floods, one of which was shown in a photo in the newspaper. Yet that flood was contained within the stopbanks.

Nowhere does it say why the stopbanks were reconstructed. About 60 years ago there was a large flood and the northern end of the High Street was flooded as far as the Motueka Hotel. Sections in the Parker and Fearon Street areas were flooded. But the flood waters did not enter many houses that had floor levels of a foot or more above ground levels. To prevent such flooding, the stopbanks were built. But nowhere in the advertisement were we told this.

It is my opinion that this advertisement - 'Are you concerned about flooding in Motueka? - is a great big con. Are not most Motueka households already insured against flood damage? The targeted rate to be imposed on Motueka ratepayers to meet the cost of rebuilding the stopbanks will mean these households are vastly over insured against something that may never happen.

Having held for 50 years, there is no reason why the present stopbanks could not hold for another 50 years, if they are properly maintained. I believe this proposal to rebuild the Motueka River stopbanks at great cost to Motueka ratepayers has been dreamed up by the council's Engineering Services to keep their staff busy. For if the charge-out hourly rates of the staff that have already been involved are all added up, I doubt if it would come to much less than $1 million of our rates money.

TDC need to be firmly told at the Feedback Forums in Motueka on the 15th and 20th of April that 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it!'.

Comment by Mark Chapman:
[Posted 31 March 2010]

I was reading Jim Butlers comments and totally agree with his comments. Motueka must not be intimidated into spend millions upon millions of dollars on something that may never happen. Any floods that threatened Motueka were at times when there was nothing between the town and the river other than empty fields. There is hectare after hectare of apple trees now that in a major flood will form a natural stopbank by catching debris.

Why should we be bullied by consultants who have all their learning from books?

Why doesn't the council look at selling the gravel that has built up over the years in the river bed? By tendering out the gravel they could make hundreds of thousands of dollars and in the process diminish the risk of flooding by lowering the river bed.

There is the argument that by doing this it will mean that many household bores will no longer draw water.I'm certain that the river by the Motueka Bridge was never as shallow as it is now in 1990 when the last big flood came. Therefore, one would assume that most bores are already at a level that they could still draw water should the table drop.

Come on Motueka, we've had the short straw for too long. Stand up to the consultant culture and have the real risks explained to us.

I'd be the first to contribute to the fund should the council and their consultants convince me that my business has a better than average chance of being destroyed by a flood.

Comment by William and Anne Marie Cleaver, Resurgence Riwaka Roasting Ltd:
[Posted 7 April 2010]

I couldn't agree more with Jim and Mark. The underlining issue here is that the council see it upon itself to make decisions on the community's behalf. The Motueka community board has been known to stand up for what they believe is right based on the decision making around their table and have still been ignored by the council.

Correct me if I am wrong but the way I see it is that the Council, Community board and the community are in a partnership or for want of better words a marriage. But as it stands this current marriage has a decision maker (Dad or the TDC), I can give advice but more often than not ignored (mum, community board) and the kids that have no say whatsoever. But in this family its the kids out there working and supplying the family with the revenue.

It's time for the kids to say hang on Dad, if you want the money how about asking nicely and give me a good well informed and totally reasearched reason to do so, Mum get forceful and represent the kids by asking what they want and stand by it to the end. And last but not least, Dad needs to realise that without the whole family working together there will be a divorce. And in most divorces Dad is the one that get the s$%^# end of the stick.

Comment by Jim Butler:
[Posted 14 April 2010]
(Editor's note: This is part of a report Jim presented to the Motueka Community Board meeting open forum yesterday. Another part of the same presentation can be seen on the Water Allocation issue here)

In 25th March issue of the Motueka Golden Bay News. Mr Chairman, (David Ogilvie) you urged Motueka residents to get involved in complaining about the terrible cost to be imposed on us, in reconstructing the Motueka River stopbanks. And so they should. Because this unnecessary work will add many hundreds of dollars to the rates of many Motueka township ratepayers each year for a great many years. It is my opinion that if the present stopbanks are properly maintained, they will hold during major floods for the next 50 years. Like they have held during major floods during the last 50 years.

On the 30th of March at 4 pm, I took the opportunity to attend the meeting in St John Hall where more Councillors were present than members of the public. This gave me a great opportunity to have an hour long, wide rangeing discussion with Cr Norris and Peter Thompson (Manager Engineering Services) on my perception of the activities of TDC' s Engineering Services.

First, it is my opinion that the proposed, costly, Stopbanks and Water Supply projects must bave resulted from having to find work for Engineering Services staff. Much of the about the 20 million dollar cost of each of these works will likely have to be met by targetted rates on Motueka ratepayers. So if these two works proceed, those ratepayers now paying $2000 a year, could well find they are paying up to $5000 a year. Already about a million dollars will have been spent or committed on the Stopbank project if the charge-out hourly rates of the staff involved are all added up, plus what has been paid or committed to consultants. Yet not a sod has been turned. A similar amount, if not a lot more, if all costs are added, will have already been spent on the Motueka Community Coastal Water Supply project. But all that has been completed to date, is the testing and purchase of a suitable site for bores in Parker St, Motueka.

In regards to the present Motueka River Stopbanks, I pointed out that these have held for 50 years and suggested if properly maintained, not always the case in the past, these should hold for another 50 years. But for some years, rates money collected from Motueka Ward ratepayers to maintain the Lower River Stopbanks was spent on Upper River Works outside of the Motueka Ward. Through lack of maintenance, the Lower River Stopbanks came close to breaking in two places. It is my contention that the urgent repair required resulted in Engineering Services becoming interested in the condition of the Lower River Stopbanks. Over the last 5 years this interest has progressed into an estimated $20 000 000 project to reconstruct the Stopbanks, much of which Motueka ratepayers are expected to pay.

Quite unnecessary in my opinion. For historic records show that before the stopbanks were built, floods covered many sections north of Poole St and Inglis St at high tide, but not into those houses whose floors were a foot or more above ground level. Anyway most householders have insurance policies that will cover flood damage.

Comment by Paul Gray:
[Posted 19 April 2010]

When the Nelson Mail printed its main article about the proposed works on the Motueka stopbanks, a telling and all to frequent comment was kept to one line and tucked away in the middle of the article, probably unnoticed by many. It was cited as the reason TDC were proposing the works - "BECAUSE OUR INSURERS TELL US WE HAVE TO"

Are you telling us we have to spend $24 million to satisfy a possible but unlikely insurance claim? Do you think if we had a bad flood in town, say a one-in-100 year event, it would come anywhere near that figure? I am at least pleased that TDC have asked us for our comments. I feel the expense and neccesity is unjustified too.

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