Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says he is exploring the option of earmarking "some millions" of Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) funding towards fixing the country's flood-prevention infrastructure.
Speaking to the Herald, Jones said he had "deep concerns" about the quality and resilience of New Zealand's flood-prevention infrastructure.
He had instructed officials to look into pilot projects to help address the flooding issue in areas such as the Whanganui-Manawatu region.
"It won't solve all of the problems, but what's the point in investing in lots of enterprises if we're actually not growing the capacity and the strength of our flooding infrastructure?"
In fact, he said Basil Chamberlain, Chief Executive of Local Government in Taranaki, had been lobbying him to make a PGF investment into this area.
"Projects would differ year by year, but it would be some millions of dollars."
Although he would not give a precise figure, he said that he would wait until officials come back to him with a list of projects before he took the proposals to Ministers to assess.
Under the rules of the PGF, any project which would cost between $1 million–$20 million had to be signed off by Jones, Finance Minister Grant Robertson, Associate Finance Minister David Parker and Transport Minister Phil Twyford.
"It's not the most sexy thing we might do, but in my view, it is a legitimate area of expenditure for the PGF."
Infrastructure NZ Chief Executive Stephen Selwood said Jones was right to have concerns about the state of New Zealand's flood-preventing infrastructure.
"It is a systemic problem and it's getting beyond just frequent weather events where we are obviously seeing rivers being flooded."
He said there are longer-term issues around climate change resistance and rising sea levels that need to be dealt with.
"There are enormous challenges facing the local Government sector – many of whom are struggling to service their existing infrastructure challenges, given their small ratepayer base."
He welcomed Jones' indication the PGF could be putting funding aside for this issue and said it is "definitely needed".
In terms of what the money could be spent on, Selwood had a few ideas, including more funding into flood resilience risk.
"Often that work is not undertaken and is not that well consolidated. So a scope assessment would be a very important issue to be identified first and then would enable the appropriate prioritisation of investment."
Selwood said the research into identifying the risks could cost up to $1 million, but the cost of addressing the issues would be higher.