Former Finance Minister Sir Michael Cullen has met with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council in Tauranga to discuss the terms of reference and potential composition of the Edgecumbe flood inquiry.

Sir Michael was named this month as independent chairman of the inquiry.

"The inquiry will be focused on the regional council's responsibility," he said.

"We obviously need technical expertise on the inquiry, particularly on issues around the Matahina Dam and the stopbanks. We should have the terms of reference finalised very soon."


Regional council chairman Doug Leeder said he hoped to be able to put the terms of reference and panel composition to the affected community by the end of next week.

Whakatane mayor Tony Bonne was not part of today's meeting, but would be consulted on the panel's makeup and terms of reference, Mr Leeder said.

"I'm keen to get this inquiry under way, but Sir Michael as the independent chairman needs to have significant input to the makeup of the panel."

The regional council is responsible for managing the Rangitaiki River flood scheme , but it is owned by the Edgecumbe community.

Mr Leeder noted the river scheme dated back to the 1960s, and more than $50 million had been spent in the past nine years on capital improvements and maintenance of the scheme, including the flood banks.

"That's a lot of money," said Mr Leeder. "The issue here is the community. The people in Edgecumbe and the farming community have paid for 80 per cent of that."

It was important they should be consulted and have input on the panel of inquiry, he said.

Mr Leeder emphasised the inquiry would focus on the Rangitaiki River flood scheme, and not on the handling of the civil defence evacuation after the flooding, which was managed by the Whakatane District Council.

"Understandably, some people have raised questions about how effective the evacuation was," he said.

"But to be clear, we are not focusing on that. This will be quite a technical review - it's about the geology, the hydrology, and about the management of water. The skillset required by the panel is quite specific."

Sir Michael was also in Tauranga to take part in a Smart Growth Leadership Group meeting in his capacity as chairman of the Bay of Plenty Tertiary Intentions Strategy.