28 Dec 2015

Questions raised by floods still open

4:44 pm on 28 December 2015

Six months after devastating floods hit south Dunedin, some residents are still unable to go home while others are living in damaged houses.

The Dunedin City Council, meanwhile, says it might need help from central government to deal with rising sea levels caused by climate change.

The council estimates 1250 properties were damaged in the flooding, which began on 2 June, and that, of those, 280 were "seriously damaged".

The MP for Dunedin South, Labour's Clare Curran, said the area was facing the biggest threat from climate change anywhere in the country, with 3000 homes lying between zero and 50 centimetres above the spring high-tide mark.

She said many people were still waiting for their homes to be repaired, and the lack of progress was frustrating.

Ms Curran said Dunedin could not deal with a slow-rolling disaster on this scale without government help.

"Central government cannot stick its fingers in its ears and look the other way. You know we now have a report that shows around New Zealand, which other populated areas [are] most affected by climate change impacts, south Dunedin is probably the biggest."

She said the city council also had to start discussing options for urban redevelopment.

Council uncertain over financing work

Dunedin mayor David Cull said the council was still assessing what needed to be done to prepare for climate change and it was not yet sure whether it could finance it.

He said council staff had just completed an in-depth analysis of how the city's infrastructure coped during the June floods, which caused more than $30 million worth of damage.

Mr Cull said the big problems with pooling in the low-lying southern suburbs, which are built on swampland, were because the pipes simply could not cope.

"If we do anything whether it's more bores, more pumps, bigger infrastructure, whatever it is that we can do, it'll cost a lot of money too. So, at the moment, until we can scope that, we're not sure of our capacity as a community to finance it."

Mr Cull said doing nothing would also be costly because much of Dunedin South would have to be vacated as sea levels rose.

Frustration over lack of progress

As planning to protect the city from future flooding continues, one couple whose house was seriously damaged in June said they were frustrated with the lack of progress on their own repairs.

St Kilda resident Julie Myers said she and her husband Jim Baird, who was recovering from a stroke, had been unable to use their main living space and one of their bedrooms since the floods.

"We ended up with a waterfall that comes down into that sunroom and then that dries, it gets hot, and twice we've had JAE, the cleaning company, in, paid for by the insurance company - because it's been growing a jelly fungus."

She said the insurance company kept commissioning different reports and, six months on, work had yet to start.

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