22 Jun 2018

Flood-prone Whanganui homeowners not impressed with council's plan

8:24 pm on 22 June 2018

Residents of flood-prone homes on Anzac Parade in Whanganui say the establishment of a fund to buy and remove the most at risk properties and raise others off the ground is a joke.

Flooding is common at Anzac Parade, Whanganui.

Flooding is common at Anzac Parade, Whanganui. Photo: RNZ/Robin Martin

The Manawatū Whanganui regional council has decided as a part of its long-term plan process to set aside $50,000 a year for the fund.

However, residents say that was a drop in the ocean and they do not want to move anyhow.

Aaron Scythe lives directly across from Kowhai Park and during the 2015 flood the Whanganui River was lapping at his front door.

He was the first to admit he did not know a lot about raising homes, but he believed $50,000 was not going to go far.

"It just doesn't really cut the cost I don't think. I mean maybe over a hundred year period it might get there," Mr Scythe said.

"I mean what are they going to raise half a house every year or one house a year? And there's a hundred odd houses here, I think."

Mr Scythe said he was willing to accept the risk of flooding.

Wayne and Kisa Coles love living across from the river and say they have had no problem getting insurance cover for floods.

Wayne and Kisa Coles love living across from the river and say they have had no problem getting insurance cover for floods. Photo: RNZ/Robin Martin

Wayne Coles lives at 76 Anzac Parade - one of the worst affected homes in 2015.

Mr Coles, a builder, said at that of level of funding nothing much was going to change.

He was more upset at the lack of consultation.

"The way I found out about [it] was when some of my friends from work told me 'oh we hear you guys are moving out of Anzac Parade. That Horizons has come up with a plan and they're gonna move you out or raise the houses'.

"And I didn't know that. Their personal approach would've been nice. It would be nice if someone came and knocked on the door. I didn't get a leaflet or anything."

Mr Coles said he had no problem getting insurance for his home and he and his wife would not be going anywhere.

"When I look out over my front yard I'm looking over a park. I don't look over another bunch of houses," Mr Coles said.

"I just love it. I take my dog over to the park. My grandchildren when they come visit I can take them over the park and the river is right there.

"I came from Auckland. In Auckland you've just got people and buildings and you have to drive to get to places like this."

Pike Terewi bought his Anzac Parade home after the 2015 floods. He says he knows the risks and isn’t going anywhere.

Pike Terewi, who bought his Anzac Parade home after the 2015 floods, says he knows the risks and isn't going anywhere. Photo: RNZ/Robin Martin

Vietnam veteran Pike Terewi is a neighbour of the Coles.

Mr Terewi bought his home just last year and said he knew of the risk.

"We were totally aware it was in the flood zone. It was flooded. But we bought this property because it has been completely rebuilt," Mr Terewi said.

"I'm a veteran, I'm retired. I've not picked up a hammer or a paint brush in this house."

Mr Terewi was also upset with the consutation process.

"No one has come to speak to myself or my wife about these issues. We are only reading about them and we don't even understand what they are talking about."

Regional council river management's manager Ramon Strong said any house removals would be voluntary.

Mr Ramon accepted the fund would not achieve a lot in the short term, but said the council was playing a long game.

"I guess this is more signalling an intent. We're really indicating a long-term strategy direction that says it is not sustainable to put more funding in to flood protection for that part of Whanganui," Mr Ramon said.

"This is the best strategy, this is the way forward."

On the streets of Whanganui, there were mixed views on the policy.

People in Whanganui work to clean up flooding at Anzac Parade.

People in Whanganui work to clean up flooding at Anzac Parade. Photo: RNZ/Robin Martin

Anne Webber was against the move.

"I don't agree with it. If they went to Shanghai they have the bund, which is a huge stopbank, and it's brilliant. Tell them to get off to Shanghai and have a look."

Holly Reid thought the street should be abandoned.

"They should take the people out of Anzac Parade and put it into a nice park because it is always going to flood there."

Mr Strong shared a similar vision.

"My ideal vision and it might be 20, 30 or 50 years time would be that those worst-affected properties have been removed," Mr Strong said.

"That Kowhai Park is extended so the green area is expanded and the dwellings around the margins of that flood area have been raised."

However, that was not a vision shared by Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall.

"That's a conversation with us because his jurisdiction is only the flood waters," Mr McDouall said.

"Our jurisdiction is to live for every other day of the year that it doesn't flood, every other year when it doesn't over-top the stopbanks.

"We have to live with that so it's a conversation I fully expect the district council to be having because it is a city planning issue."

The Manawatū Whanganui regional council is working on helping residents at Anzac Parade in Whanganui to combat common flooding incidents.

The Manawatū Whanganui regional council is working on helping residents at Anzac Parade in Whanganui to combat common flooding incidents. Photo: RNZ/Robin Martin

Mr McDouall said managed retreat was the "nuclear option" and he was happy the regional council had softened its approach somewhat."

"What I want to make sure of is that all of the options have been run down to the ground because there are places like Memphis, Tennessee and Launceston in Tasmania that deal with a regularly flooding river by building for the river, embracing the river."

The regional council said it had a stall at the River Traders Market during the consultation period for its long term plan and held two community meetings in the city.

The council also mailed a submission form to every household in the region.

Of the 116 submissions that directly addressed the Anzac Parade proposal, 107 supported it and four favoured it in principle.

Three submitters were opposed to it and two did not offer an opinion one way or the other.

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