Council to investigate stop banks for Onetere Drive

By Zaryd Wilson

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The problem culvert under Wikitoria Rd
The problem culvert under Wikitoria Rd

Stop banks to protect Onetere Drive houses from flooding will be investigated by Whanganui District Council.

But it's not the preferred option of the street's residents who have been campaigning to have the culvert under Wikitoria Road widened.

After a two-hour discussion at Tuesday Whanganui District Council meeting, councillors voted for a motion put forward by Mayor Annette Main to investigate building a stop bank using a shared funding model to pay for it.

The issue re-emerged after five properties in the subdivision off Wikitoria Rd were inundated in the June 2015 flood.

Yesterday the council also voted to include a review of the level of flood protection in Whanganui - including access to the airport - in the next Long Term Plan, due in 2018.

Council staff met with the Onetere Drive residents earlier this month where six options were discussed.

A $1million bridge on Wikitoria Rd and a $600,000 box culvert were the preferred options of the residents.

"The bridge was the preferred option from the meeting," WDC senior stormwater engineer Kritzo Venter told councillors on Tuesday.

He said a privately funded and much cheaper scheme such as stop banking was discussed but not wanted.

Debate among councillors centred around whether or not ratepayers should fund flood protection or upgraded storm water (above what is required) for what was a small number of affected dwellings.

Mr Venter said any ratepayer-funded work in Onetere Drive would be an increase in the "level of service" provided for by council's annual and long term plans and would trigger the need to review flood protection for the whole district.

The area is rural and properties do not pay storm water rates.

"There would be millions that would need to be considered and planned for to expand this level of service across the district," Mr Venter said.

"There would be several residences elsewhere that would need to be consulted with and considered.

"This decision needs to be taken quite seriously."

The council currently operated no flood protection in the district.

Mr Venter said the council should also weigh up the value of spending money on protecting five houses at Onetere Drive against spending the same in raising flood protection in other area such as Anzac Parade.

But councillor Rob Vinsen said flooding was a big issue for the Onetere Drive residents who had been flooded several times.

He said wanted the work done in the next financial year by borrowing.

"Given that the bridge is estimated at $1million and the box culvert estimated at $600,000, why would you go for the bridge option when both do the same job," he said.

"We've got to stop bringing all these ancillary things about level of service. We need to recognise that there is a dam created there by this (current) culvert. What do we have to do to get it recognised?

"Aren't we just fixing a problem? Forget the level of service," he said.

However, other councillors were concerned it would not be fair on other ratepayers.

"If we change the level of service here, what sort of precedent does it set for the rest of the city? It just opens up a can of worms in terms of infrastructure spend," councillor Martin Visser said.

Deputy mayor Hamish McDouall backed the later motion to investigate building stop banks but was not prepared to support the preferred bridge or box culvert upgrade without reviewing the entire district's needs.

"We are favouring five residences for quite a bit of money. I know it's not a popular view and I'm sure I'll lose votes around Onetere Drive but I have to respect my philosophy," he said.

"We've got to balance this and it needs to be a whole of district view because otherwise we are just oiling the squeaky wheel."

Ms Main said her motion to investigate stop banks was about trying to find a more immediate solution while district wide needs were investigated.

"I don't believe the conversation has been had about how we could potentially fund this in the region."

Following the meeting Onetere Drive resident Paul Duncan said the property owners were disappointed with the outcome.

"We're pretty gutted out here," he said.

"We were just hoping we could get something more formal before the election so we didn't have to deal with a whole new council."

He said they would've been happy with either a box culvert or a bridge.

"We asked for the best and expected the second best."

Mr Duncan said the suggestion that doing work at Onetere Drive would set a precedent for other parts of the district was a "smoke screen".

"Are the other coming to the council and talking about it? I don't think they are.

"My feeling at the end of yesterday's meeting was that after all these year's we've still got no further ahead."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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