With winter fast approaching, Bay of Plenty Regional Council is again reminding rural landowners of the requirements to protect the region's stopbanks from the effects of stock and overgrazing.
Rivers and Drainage Asset Manager Kirsty Brown says most farmers and lifestyle block owners know the rules but the importance of maintaining the region's flood defences can't be underestimated.
"Council manages and maintains almost 352km of stopbanks across the region to protect people, property and livelihoods. During winter, it is common sense to keep stock off the stopbanks as much as possible to prevent pugging and damage. Churned up ground is not just a surface problem, it can cause much greater issues. Good grass cover helps to 'knit together' the soil structure underneath, so weakening that element can have a disastrous effect on surrounding properties and potentially the wider community."
"Pigs and horses scraping and tearing up the grass cover can also be a potential problem and bulls are never permitted on stopbanks because their weight and behaviour can very quickly cause significant damage," she said.
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council Floodway and Drainage Bylaw applies to drains, pumping stations, defences against water, river edge protection works and floodways owned by Council. Under the bylaw it is an offence to damage stopbanks, and landowners can be held liable for any damage. Minor offences will receive written and verbal warnings, while more serious offences could face abatement notices, fines and prosecution.
The bylaw also requires an authority to be applied for by anyone intending to build or demolish any structure, undertake earthworks, or any ground penetrating work in the vicinity of a stopbank. Conditions differ across the region, so anyone intending to carry out work near a flood defence should contact the Regional Council for full details.
"Our Rivers and Drainage team naturally keep an eye on the condition of our stopbanks and we always welcome contact from members of the public who may suspect a problem.
Our Pollution Hotline (0800 884 883) is the best way to report any areas of concern," Ms Brown adds.