21 Jun 2016

Dunedin council concedes flood worsened by faulty pumping station

8:45 am on 21 June 2016

Dunedin City Council has admitted a faulty pumping station made last year's South Dunedin flood 20cm deeper than it would have otherwise been.

Surrey Street, South Dunedin.

Surrey Street, South Dunedin. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

The Council made the admission at a rowdy public meeting at the Nations Church last night about the flooding a year ago which damaged 1200 homes and businesses.

South Dunedin residents have been waiting for a year for its council to front up for the flooding - and last night it did so en masse. At least eight city councillors, the chief executive and her two deputies were quizzed by 200 locals about what happened last June, and what will stop it happening again.

Dunedin council chief executive Sue Bidrose

Dunedin council chief executive Sue Bidrose Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Chief executive Sue Bidrose told the crowd of 200 people the council had reports showing the flood was caused by more rain falling than the stormwater system was designed to cope with.

But Dr Bidrose made a major concession, saying the council now accepted a key pumping station was blocked, adding an extra 20cm of water to the area.

She said the council was fixing the pumping station, had all the drains and mud tanks in South Dunedin fully cleared and had new procedures when heavy rain was forecast.

But it will take more than her words to sort out the ill feeling with residents, who said they felt neglected and betrayed by the council, and especially by Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull.

Flooding in south Dunedin on Wednesday 3 June.

Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Shortly after the flooding, Mr Cull linked the event to climate change and warned South Dunedin may have to beat a managed retreat.

Local woman Kathinka Nordal Stene said she was shocked Mr Cull undermined the community at the time when it most needed his support.

She said the future of South Dunedin had become a major election issue, on which Mr Cull would be judged.

Mr Cull was not at the meeting because he was visiting China.

South Dunedin residents at the meeting to discuss recent flooding.

South Dunedin residents at the meeting to discuss recent flooding. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Acting mayor Andrew Noone read out a 15-minute statement in which he promised the council would stand behind South Dunedin for years, though he would not promise forever.

Acting Dunedin Mayor Andrew Noone

Acting Dunedin Mayor Andrew Noone Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Local artist Janet de Wagt said the mayor still needed to come to South Dunedin and apologise.

"A lot of people are upset, having had to move house or live in motels, and the mayor is in China. He is still not here," Ms de Wagt said.

Leaders of the newly formed South Dunedin Action Group accused the council and its leaders of having a secret plan to abandon the suburb and blame it on climate change.

But Ms Bidrose said there was no secret plan.

She said next year the council would invest $5m in South Dunedin's community hub, $500,000 in a local hockey turf and more money to buy buildings to expand the area's Gasworks Museum.

She said that was proof the council was not walking away.

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