Whanganui District Council is to spend $80 million over the next 40 years on its stormwater network — but one councillor says they are going in the wrong direction.
The work set out in the long-term plan consultation document has left councillor Rob Vinsen baffled, and he says council's priorities are wrong.
"Extensive work has been done to identify restrictions in the pipe network, and priority areas are being identified by council engineers," Mr Vinsen said yesterday.
"But, in my opinion, they are getting their priorities wrong by focusing on the wrong characteristics."
He said councillors had been presented with statistics of the "likelihood" of flooding events, but nothing about the "consequences" of these events on the lives of residents.
He believes council shuld be more concerned about the human cost than statistics, and should be focussing on areas where flooding is hurting ratepayers.
Council engineers have made Halswell Street, London Street and Harrison Street their top priority in the plan, followed by Springvale, College Estate, and the Aramoho cemetery area.
"Some of us councillors are baffled by this as even during the last major flood event in June 2015, flooding in the Halswell, Harrison and London street areas did not reach anywhere near the devastation caused in other areas.
"The evaluation based on "likelihood" has been skewed by the large number of residences — over 650 — in these streets which gets multiplied out into potential dollar losses.
"While flooding did occur in Halswell Street around Peat Park, there were no reports that I am aware of that rivalled the devastation to peoples lives in Anzac Parade, Onetere Drive and around the Matarawa Stream.
"Shouldn't we be more concerned about human hardship?"
He said while Anzac Parade was the responsibility of Horizons Regional Council, the district council had to look after areas around Gerse Street, Ikitara Road and Onetere Drive.
"An engineering study of the beneficial effects of widening the Gerse Street culvert needs to be a priority – and the replacement of the Airport Road culvert with an enlarged capacity structure should be in the planned work programme."
Mr Vinsen said residents in Onetere Drive had been forced from their homes three times in nine years, with floodwaters above floor levels each time.
"Engineers told council 'but there are only five properties in Onetere Drive'. When compared to 650 in the central city zone, these five owners' issues didn't equate according to the logic expressed.
"Infrastructure staff should present the case histories of affected residents to councillors – and prioritise to address these. It's people's exposure to hardship that matters – not the numbers of properties."
He wants residents affected by flooding to submit their stories to council as part of the long-term plan consultation process.
"I would particularly like to be contacted by residents who have suffered hardship due to the floods of June 2015 and at other times," said Mr Vinsen who can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Submissions to the consultation document close this Thursday, April 19.