Proposed new floodplain management plan ticks all boxes
Free flowing rivers contained within vegetated buffers offering both a more natural environment and greater security from flooding are the twin objectives of the draft Te Kāuru Upper Ruamāhanga Floodplain Management Plan.
The new draft plan proposes a broad approach to managing flood risks, protecting, enhancing or restoring natural and cultural values while recognising the significance of the catchment's rivers to affected land owners and the broader community.
Endorsed by Greater Wellington's Environment Committee on Thursday 21 June, the draft plan covers proposed management of flooding and erosion on the Upper Ruamāhanga River upstream of the Waiohine confluence, and its tributaries the Waipoua, Waingawa, Taueru, Whangaehu and Kopuaranga rivers.
"This catchment has a history of flooding, which can be dangerous and damage private property and community assets. We hope our proposals will help protect the people and assets of riverside communities from flooding while also minimising the impact of works in rivers and on the riverside environment," says Greater Wellington Regional councillor and chair of its Environment Committee, Sue Kedgley.
Under the draft plan landowners will benefit from more certainty and protection outside the buffers, but land within the buffers may be subject to erosion due to the greater licence rivers will be given to meander and take a more natural course.
Greater Wellington councillor and chair of its Wairarapa Committee, Adrienne Staples, says "we recognise that the wider community also wants our rivers to have improved natural character and be more accessible. What we are proposing will hopefully achieve both goals while still acknowledging and protecting private property rights and assets."
There are two types of river schemes operating within the Te Kāuru catchment. Schemes on the Tararua side of the valley manage larger, gravel-bedded rivers. On the eastern side the rivers are smaller, silt-bedded and drain from the eastern hills. Different flood protection and erosion management responses and projects have been developed, and are costed in the plan's proposals.
The broader benefits of this approach would have implications for funding river management operational work. Currently, landowners within flood protection schemes fund a proportion of scheme costs. However, to reflect the wider benefit of the draft plan's approach landowner contributions will be spread across the wider community encompassing, for example, all ratepayers in Carterton and Masterton District councils.
Changes are also proposed for flood management governance in the Te Kāuru catchment. While the current structure of eight river management scheme committees would continue to deal with the river-specific issues, a new advisory committee with representation from district councils, Greater Wellington and Iwi and the river schemes would be established to consider the issues related to the whole upper catchment. It would report to the Greater Wellington Wairarapa Committee instead of Greater Wellington's Environment Committee, providing for greater local autonomy.
Engagement and feedback on the plan will start in July for initiatives in rural areas and continue through August. Full details on how people will be able to review the plan and make their views known will be soon released.
Plans and proposals for the Masterton's Waipoua River urban area are under development, and public engagement on them will follow once they are completed.
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