24 March 2023
Northwest Auckland – Pause on further development
My office has been in touch with the Supporting Growth team since August 2022 seeking information and assurances that the flooding risk for the area has been adequately planned for and addressed.
I remain deeply concerned on behalf of the local community about the potential impact further development will have on flood prone land, homes and commercial properties in the area. I am therefore seeking an urgent hold on all plans for growth and development until the flooding issue has been meaningfully acknowledged and adequately addressed by the Council.
I am not sure if you are aware, but a number of properties in Kumeu and Huapai have flooded several times in the last 18 months. One home that I am aware of was repaired following the August 2021 floods (at a cost of $179,000), only to now be “red stickered” following flooding in January this year. Its owners are in limbo for the foreseeable future. My constituents are completely exhausted and traumatised from these events.
Email 9 March 2023
My office received an email from Supporting Growth on 9 March 2023, in response to requests for formal analysis/reports from a hydraulic engineer (or similar) regarding the impact various proposals and plans from Supporting Growth would have on the flood plain/prone areas of north west Auckland.
Below are the key points from that email that I consider need addressing:
- Quote from email:
“It is unlikely that newer developments in Kumeu have contributed materially to recent flood events. This is due to the large upstream catchment for the Kumeu waterways, located to the south of urban Kumeu. The catchment covers largely rural areas and these are the main source of the floodwater.”
The statement above appears to disregard, or at the very least minimise, the fact that significant flooding has occurred in the industrial and urban areas of Kumeu and north of Kumeu (Huapai).
There has been significant development on, and adjacent to, known floodplains in the Kumeu-Huapai area in the last decade. The new developments have been built on raised platforms to avoid flooding for themselves. However, the homes and commercial properties that sit adjacent to these developments, and were built decades ago, have experienced significant flooding at a never-before-seen intensity and frequency (four times in the last 18 months, with three of those times in the space of a month).
Flood damaged property owners who are adjacent to developments on raised platforms would argue that the newer developments have contributed materially to their situation.
What evidence is available to support the claim that newer developments (e.g. Huapai North) are unlikely to have contributed materially to the recent flooding in neighbouring Rheingold Place/Pinotage Place for example?
- There are a number of statements contained in the email which indicate any future development will appropriately manage stormwater effects to avoid flooding on adjacent land. Similar statements were made in the District Plans for various developments in Kumeu/Huapai (e.g. Huapai North and Kumeu Central). Yet, the experience for constituents over the last 18 months has been that the stormwater has not been effectively managed. The river, waterways and stormwater infrastructure in its current state clearly cannot cope with the volume of stormwater run-off in periods of heavy rain in the region. This is obvious from the flooding of homes and commercial properties three or four times in the last 18 months.
- Auckland Council District Plan (Rodney Section) 2011 – Chapter 5 Natural Hazards 5.4.1 Policies (attached) states:
“In areas prone to natural events caused by the weather, earth, water, or sea … sensitive activities should, where possible, be avoided. New subdivision, use and development should be located and designed so that the need for hazard protection works is avoided. Where this is not possible, activities should ensure that any risk of loss of life or injury or environmental damage is minimised through appropriate mitigation measures […] Wherever possible the approach to the management of natural hazards should be to avoid development and subdivision in hazard prone areas, such as floodplains […] Recently, technical work has highlighted the complex interplay of coastal geometry, bathymetry, tidal effects and climate change and other physical phenomena which requires Councils to take a cautious and prudent approach to new development and mitigation of existing risk.” [Emphasis added]
Despite this policy, developments have continued to be built on, and adjacent to, floodplains and flood prone areas with devastating effects on neighbouring land, and with little/no attempt to mitigate the effects of increased stormwater run-off.
For example, the Kumeu Town Centre Zone was constructed on the basis/expectation that the floodway project would be completed:
“The section of Kumeu River at Kumeu is prone to flooding and implemented mitigation works (Stages 1 and 2 of the Kumeu River floodway) together with the Council’s proposed works to complete the floodway (Stages 3 and 4 of the floodway project) will combine to reduce the impact of flooding over time […] Following completion of the initial floodway works, much of the Special 34 Zone falls within the 100 year ARI flood plain. This is an interim state pending completion by the Council of the final two stages of the floodway works, and residential development within the flood plain will be considered on a case by case basis prior to completion of those works.” [Auckland Council District Plan (Rodney Section) 2011 Special 34 (Kumeu Town Centre) Zone: Chapter 184.108.40.206.1.4 – attached]
The floodway was not completed but development was permitted to continue.
In addition, it is known and documented (in the Kaipara-Kumeu Catchment Management Plan – Hydraulic Modelling – Chapter 5.5) that the floodway project would adversely impact on residential properties in Pinotage Place/Rheingold Place and therefore certain measures would need to be taken in order to protect them from flooding (in particular, the embankment would need to be raised and vegetation would need to be controlled and maintained). Despite this, part of the floodway project was completed without any of the additional measures taken to protect those properties in Pinotage Place/Rheingold Place, and they are now paying a huge price for that omission (financially, emotionally and physically).
Naturally, in light of the above points, the local community have no faith that the flood modelling being relied upon is accurate, or that stormwater management plans will be effective (or will even been implemented - given their experience with the floodway project).
Despite warnings for decades about climate change and the land being a floodplain/flood prone, development has continued apace. At the same time, the Kumeu floodway project has stalled; the river, drains and culverts have not been cleared out or maintained to handle the extra volume of stormwater; the embankment has not been raised to protect Rheingold Place and Pinotage Place. This is all despite the Council knowing that these areas were at increased risk of flooding.
It is not good enough for a lack of available funding to be cited as a reason not to complete the floodway and maintain the waterways (and so on) yet still go ahead and permit developments, reckless as to whether they will further exacerbate the flooding risk to the local properties and roads.
It is unconscionable to proceed on this basis. New development plans must halt to prevent still further damage to property or, even worse, the loss of life. The entire strategic plan for the area (to the extent that there is such a thing) needs a major re-think, not based on models alone but on what has actually been happening on the ground over the last 18 months.
I would find it helpful to discuss the above issues in person. My office will be in touch in the near future to suggest some possible dates for this to take place.
Chris Penk MP