act Simon Court – Floods a warning of deeper problems

How can we grow a healthier communities and a healthy economy when floods causing so much damage to homes and businesses on such a regular basis?
In March 2017 the “Tasman Tempest” was a “once in a century” rainfall event, according to Mayor Phil Goff at the time.
Heavy rain on 30 August last year delivered the second wettest day in Kumeu since records began. Families were forced to evacuate terrified children and pets, if only they could find them in the early morning darkness.
Kaipara and Auckland’s North West were hit by severe flooding again on 21 March 2022 the second time in less than a year, and described as the worst in living memory by locals.
I called a friend in Waimauku to ask whether his home was affected. While fortunate to be above the high-water mark, he was concerned about building materials stored at his yard.
If flood waters damaged stock it could take months to replace, which equals months with no work. With roads closed, he was stuck at home powerless to do anything about it.
The latest storm sparked calls for a flood warning system for Kumeu. While a siren might be needed in the short term, it is merely a band aid over the deeper problem – a massive infrastructure deficit making the effects of flooding much worse.
The recent Treasury Investment Statement lays this out for the Government, in advance of the 2022 Budget coming up in May. They cite the Infrastructure Commission’s recent estimate that there is an “infrastructure gap” - the value of what New Zealand should have built but has not - of $104 billion.
This is despite all the money contributed by local people for infrastructure through property rates, development contributions and the 15% GST on new builds which goes to central Government.
Culverts, bridges, drainage channels and stop banks should have been upgraded as land use intensified in the district over the past 30 years, but they were not.
ACT believes this problem can be solved quite simply with better incentives for councils to invest in high priority infrastructure, as well as better funding and financing tools.
We propose that central Government share half the GST on all new builds with local government, to cashflow the long list of infrastructure projects which are not currently funded. That would also incentivise councils to issue resource and building consents much more quickly so they could collect the money from central Government.
To make sure that the money gets to where it is needed, ACT proposes a system of 30-year infrastructure partnerships between regional and central government. The regional partnerships would prioritise the projects and have control of the budgets.
The Infrastructure Commission, on behalf of central Government, would monitor their performance against agreed metrics, like reducing flood damage within a certain time frame.
A similar approach matching Government funding with local knowledge is currently paying dividends in Auckland through the Auckland Transport Alignment Plan, so we would expect similar results for water infrastructure.
ACT believes our plan will help fix the infrastructure deficit faster, and deliver a healthier community and a healthy economy.

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