Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Taking shortsighted penny-pinching to a whole new level

Over the weekend Westport was hit by devastating floods. Half the town had to be evacuated, 89 homes (so far) are uninhabitable, and another 400 (of ~1700) need serious repairs. The total cost hasn't come in yet, but its going to be well into the tens of millions of dollars. And it turns out that the entire thing was preventable:

A $10 million flood protection scheme proposed for Westport would have prevented most of the devastation caused by the weekend's massive flood, the West Coast Regional Council operations director says.


Randal Beal said the scheme involved extensive stopbanks and floodwalls – essentially ringfencing the town from the Buller and Orowaiti rivers – and would cost $10.2 million. “It is designed for a one-in-a-hundred-year flood in the Buller, and whether it would have protected the town this time, the simple answer is yes, unless there was a flood bank failure,” he said.


The regional council originally pitched the project to Westport ratepayers in 2017, but they had little appetite for it, Beal said.

Only 10.8 percent of respondents supported it; 24.6 percent preferred to do nothing about their town's flood risk and 30 per cent had no opinion.

“It would have been an expense for ratepayers, certainly, and without a majority supporting it we couldn't go ahead,” he said.

This takes Keeping Rates Low to an entirely new level. Wellington's regular poonamis are embarrassing, but it takes real shortsighted penny-pinching to make 5% of your town homeless. They're lucky no-one died. But hey, at least some old dudes didn't lose an election.

Meanwhile, I'd hope that other councils around the country are looking at their flood protection, and their climate change projections, and prioritising improvements. And if they're not, they should face the rage of voters in 2022.