Friday, April 26, 2024

Flood clean up under way

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The Ashburton River has been neglected and that has compounded flooding damage, Mid Canterbury farmer and Environment Canterbury (ECan) councillor Ian Mackenzie says. “It is fair to say the Ashburton River has been neglected by the regional council in terms of maintenance, which has exacerbated some flooding damage,” Mackenzie said.
FMG has received 3824 claims related to Cyclone Gabrielle, mostly for buildings, contents and vehicles. File photo
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“But farmers can be assured stuff is happening, if not on their place, their neighbour’s place – stuff is happening somewhere in response as a coordinated recovery plan is put in place.”

Mackenzie spent five days out and about the district talking to landowners.

ECan chief executive Stefanie Rixecker visited the district for a look around flood-ravaged farms and damaged rivers, and also met with Mayor Neil Brown and the Ashburton District Council on Wednesday.

“We know we are dealing with a huge event here and our chief executive saw some raw stories and is under no illusion of the scale of the problem,” Mackenzie said.

ECan has 14 contractors working on flood recovery in rivers across Canterbury.

Mackenzie says while there are a lot of undocumented problems in the high country where the realisation of the big issues are emerging, a lot of that is not strictly an ECan response.

“In some places we (ECan) don’t have a responsibility, in other areas there is clear responsibility, and in some areas we have moral responsibility, but not necessarily legal responsibility,” he said.

“We have to work through all this and do the best we can for our region.

“This is going to take a lot of money to fix up and where that will come from is above my pay rate.

“What it (recovery plan) will look like we don’t know yet, but farmers are reassured we are looking sympathetically and constructively at what we can do.”  

The plan is to work with regional councils on rivers and streams, NZTA on roads, while Federated Farmers and Rural Support Trusts are coordinating to quantify on-farm damage and need to put together a comprehensive cost assessment across the region.

Mackenzie says there are various central government funds that could be tapped into and ECan has a few reserves of its own, though not huge after the Rangitata flood.  

“Where we have clear responsibility we can borrow. It’s a bit early to describe how that will look, we first need to present a comprehensive plan, not a half-cocked one,” he said.

Ironically in early May, ECan formed a catchment committee, of which Mackenzie co-chairs, to sort out some of the deficiencies in the region’s river rating and river management systems.

That committee has not had its first meeting yet.

“Suddenly we will be full force much sooner than expected,” he said. 

“One thing for sure is if farmers had not borne the brunt of this flood, it would have flooded the town (Ashburton).

“The landowners who took a hit saved a lot of people – that’s the reflection we are going to have as a regional council in putting together an application to central government.”

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