“While much of NZ has moved on, the aftermath of flooding and other storm events remains bleak in areas such as northwest Auckland. We must not allow the continually changing clamour of the news cycle to drown out the very real need that still exists here. Authorities have two key responsibilities in this regard.
The first is supporting locals whose lives are still in limbo. It seems to me that official answers are coming much too slowly from local and central government. I’ve been urging various government ministers to help flood-stricken residents in a number of different ways. And certainty is needed for those with “red-sticker” status. But that’s not the focus of this column.
Instead I want to focus on the second area of official responsibility, which is to learn every lesson needed to reduce the risk of a further flooding event causing such damage. Some of my constituents have already been flooded out no fewer than four times in the past year and a half. Enough is enough.
A highly practical, relatively easy win can be installing a flood warning system for the Kumeu River.
In fact, it will be a matter of reinstating such a system: a river gauge at Kumeu was decommissioned in 2016 according to the Review of the Kumeu Flood Event of August 2021 carried out by WSP New Zealand Ltd.
The “Healthy Waters” section of Auckland Council have recently told me that they’re working on a flood forecasting and warning system for Auckland. Information obtained from rising rivers must be passed in real time between the agencies and, even more importantly, to the residents themselves.
It can’t come soon enough, as we’re now in a race against time with the rains that months ahead of worsening weather will surely bring. I hope that promptly reinstating Kumeu River’s gauge will also enhance the accuracy of the hydraulic modelling for Auckland’s northwest, being an area with a large population centre situated next to a flood-prone river.
I’ve asked Healthy Waters to be kept informed on the progress of these initiatives and have urged that they be prioritised.
And another lesson learnt must be the end of ad hoc development. My view is that we simply cannot indulge “private plan change” applications in flood-prone environments, allowing one-off developments outside the existing envelope of infrastructure.
This particular change will be achievable by the stroke of a pen in the Beehive, which is where I’m directing many of these questions.
I’ll keep you posted on the answers. Winter is coming.”