Residents come out to community meetings to learn about recovery efforts

Published: 15 July 2021

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It was good to see many farmers and landowners at Tuesday's community meetings to hear about flood recovery progress following May's one-in-200-year rain event.

Around 75 people attended the Greenstreet meeting, with another 60 at Winchmore, and 60 more at Mt Somers.

A common theme that emerged from questions was that the $4 million put aside by central Government for flood recovery relief in Canterbury would not be enough. This should not, however, stop people from applying for financial help. We were told by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that the fund was a first step. Anyone who needs extra support to cover flood damage costs not covered by insurance should make an application.

The event's significance has emerged in the weeks since the rainfall, when 546mm of rain fell at Mt Somers, more than twice the highest amount ever recorded at that rain gauge.

I have been told that in the 24 hours when the Ashburton River peaked at 1,548 cumecs, there would have been enough water to lift Lake Tekapo by 1.5 metres. The energy it produced would have also heated every house in Ashburton for 18 months.

It will take time to recover, and we are committed to supporting those residents most affected to get through this. We continue to have a team working in the background making sure questions are asked of the right people and that rumours and hearsay don't make things more stressful.

While farmers deal with flood damage and the loss of productive land, we have been repairing our roading network, which sustained damage between $5-6 million. While Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency will fund some of the repairs, Council will be left with a sizeable bill.

Our stockwater network and siphons were also damaged, and some community drinking water schemes also needed time to recover.

Groundwater levels are still high, and some properties now have to cope with previously dry springs adding to drainage issues.

As May's rain event showed, flooding in the Ashburton River affects more than those few landowners who live beside the river. It can affect the State Highway 1 bridge and the whole of the South Island.

With that in mind, Timaru Mayor Nigel Bowen, Selwyn Mayor Sam Broughton, and I will be making a recommendation to the Canterbury Mayoral Forum to review who should be rated or pay for river maintenance and protection in Canterbury.

Many more dollars are needed to manage the build-up of shingle in our braided rivers and ensure flood protection is appropriate for the values of the assets we are protecting.

Federated Farmers, the Ministry for Primary Industries, Rural Support Trust, and Environment Canterbury continue to work in the flood recovery space and are happy to field your questions.

If you missed Tuesday's meetings, you can view a video of the Winchmore meeting on the Council's website (ashburtondc.govt.nz).

Specific information about the recovery, including links to the $4 million financial assistance fund, is also on the special Flood Recovery page.


Ashburton District Council Mayor, Neil Brown, provides a fortnightly column to local newspapers. This column was featured in the Ashburton Courier on Thursday, 15 July 2021.


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