12 May 2017

Raising or removing flood-prone Whanganui homes a better option - council report

8:47 pm on 12 May 2017

A council report has suggested moving 100 flood-prone houses from Whanganui's Anzac Parade, but residents say there must be another option.

A home with a mudcaked front yard after the 2015 floods.

A home with a mudcaked front yard after the 2015 floods. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Horizons Regional Council said jacking up homes or removing them completely could be a better option than raising stopbanks on the Whanganui River.

Whanganui Ratepayers Association originally made the suggestion last year.

Kisa Coles, who has lived on the street with her husband for 13 years, said although floodwaters in her home went above head height during the June 2015 flood, she loved the location and did not want move.

"I love it here and I'd be very sad because if I have to buy in a normal street I wouldn't have the park to look at.

"I'd just be looking at other houses and how boring is that? You know, it's autumn and I can see a big display of the trees in the park. It's just beautiful."

Mrs Coles believed something could still be done to prevent flooding without removing the houses.

Kisa Coles has lived at the Putiki end of Anzac Parade with her husband for 13 years.

Kisa Coles has lived at the Putiki end of Anzac Parade with her husband for 13 years. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

"If they could dredge the river and-or fix the Matarawa Stream where a lot of the water comes from that would be great.

"After all, I do pay rates for that - or is it just cheaper to get rid of the people and not to actually spend money to fix the problem?"

Willy McGregor has lived on Anzac Parade since 2001 and has two properties which were ruined in the 2015 flood.

He favoured removing them but said homeowners must be compensated.

"I think that if the council is going to relocate or buy these up and give an honest and reasonable remuneration for them so we can move out I don't think anyone down here would have an overly great problem."

Head of river management Ramon Strong said the council had consulted widely before writing the report, which outlines the pros and cons of various solutions for Whanganui's flooding problems.

"Clearly those that are affected and impacted would like more, higher stopbanks - but the cost is spread across the wider Whanganui community.

"There's certainly a substantial element of the community who I guess question the wisdom of looking to higher stopbanking to the solution for that particular issue."

Mr Strong said in a 200-year flood event, the depth of flooding would be more than three metres and moving homes had to be part of the discussion.

muddy boots surounded by floodwaters

A pair of boots is left in the mud on Anzac Parade during the clean-up following the 2015 Whanganui flood. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Raising the stopbanks was technically challenging and would cost about $10 million, he said.

Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall said he had not even been sent a copy of the report and could not believe the removal of homes was even in discussion.

"To talk about removing homes is very premature and quite alarmist really, and I feel for the people sitting their homes that they've been in for many years on Anzac Parade suddenly hearing that could be the preferred option.

"I'm going 'no, it's way too early in the entire process to even go there'."

Mr McDouall wanted to know who would be paying for relocating homes.

Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall says it is premature to be talking about removing homes.

Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall says it is premature to be talking about removing homes. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Mr Strong said that was a tricky question to answer.

"Central government haven't been in the space particularly strongly in the past, they seem to moving a little bit in this direction at the moment.

"But the elephant in the room in all of this, is what will the funding model look like and what, if any, contribution will central government put forward."

Mr McDouall said river management was the Horizons council's responsibility and his council would not be contributing any money to cost of relocating homes.

Horizons is due present its report to the Whanganui council in June and include it in its long-term plan next year.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs