Edgecumbe flood victims deserve answers - investigator

7:19 am on 23 May 2017

The head of the investigation into the catastrophic failure of Edgecumbe's stopbank says the flood-stricken community deserves answers.

Sir Michael John Cullen KNZM is a former New Zealand politician. He served as Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, also Minister of Finance, Minister of Tertiary Education, and Attorney-General.

Former New Zealand politician, Sir Michael Cullen, will head the investigation. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Almost the entire town of 1600 people was evacuated after the Rangitāiki River burst its banks in early April.

About 70 percent of homes in the town were flooded, and more than a quarter were yellow-stickered.

Yesterday, Michael Cullen announced water resources engineer Kyle Christensen and geotechnical engineer Charlie Price would be joining him in investigating the breach.

Sir Michael said the flooding had a significant impact on the people of Edgecumbe and they deserved to know what happened and why.

"What were the reasons for that, were there possibilities of it being avoided and in the future what can be done to make sure such an event doesn't happen again?"

He said the community would be able to give feedback to the panel about their concerns on 3 June.

Scope of inquiry

The inquiry would look at at the operation of the Rangitāiki River Scheme assets, which was managed by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, including its design, engineering, maintenance and management.

It would also look at the council's flood management role before the breach and in response to it.

Council chair, Doug Leeder, said he believed it did the best it could in the circumstances.

"But the...panel is asking us to review that and if they have a differing opinion in terms of that, then we'll just have to accept that," he said.

A farmer drives through flood waters on Otaiki Road the morning after the town of Edgecumbe was flooded by a burst stopbank.  Friday 7 April 2017

A farmer drives through flood waters on Otaiki Road the morning after the town of Edgecumbe was flooded by a burst stopbank. Photo: RNZ/ Brad White

An Edgecumbe resident of 45 years, Roddy Howe, said the stopbank should have been fixed years ago.

"In 2004, when they had that flood, it was leaking, it was squirting out between the joints, it was seeping through under the wall, all the drain holes and man holes up and down College Road.

"It should never have been built in the first place, or if it was it should have been repaired after 2004."

Of the $30 million spent on the Rangitāiki River Scheme over the last 10 years, 80 percent had been funded by local residents - including those living in Edgecumbe.

Mr Howe said with large amounts of ratepayer money spent on maintaining the stopbank, it was important the truth was revealed.

He had changed motels three times since the evacuation and was now moving into his caravan with three of his grandchildren.

The deadline for the inquiry is late July.

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