Value of stopbank project proven during cyclone

  • Hon Shane Jones

A stopbank upgrade project in Tairawhiti partly funded by the Government has increased flood resilience for around 7000ha of residential and horticultural land so far, Regional Development Minister Shane Jones says.

Mr Jones today attended a dawn service in Gisborne to mark the end of the first stage of the Waipaoa River Flood Resilience Project in which 15km of critical stopbank protection along the eastern side of the river between Poverty Bay and Gisborne was raised and widened.

Tairawhiti was one of a number of regions hit hard by Cyclone Gabrielle last year.

“New Zealand is being increasingly hit by severe weather events, and measures such as bolstering stopbank infrastructure can help mitigate some of the terrible consequences for communities,” Mr Jones says.

“Protecting lives and homes are of the utmost importance. Reducing the toll these events have, including on livelihoods, businesses and infrastructure, and the cost to local and central government, also helps regions and the country recover faster following storms and floods.”

The Government made a $7.5 million grant for the project while Gisborne District Council contributed $7.13m. This allowed the council to accelerate its flood resilience work, giving greater protection to larger areas of land. Stopbanks were raised by up to 1.8m in places and the top crest widened by 1m-4m.

The Government contribution came from its Climate Resilience Flood Protection

Programme administered by Kānoa, the Regional Development Unit.

“The project was delayed by eight months due to Cyclones Hale and Gabrielle but thankfully, the work done by that time provided a good measure of protection.

“About 98 per cent of the Gisborne city side of the stopbank had been completed just prior to Cyclone Gabrielle, and it’s estimated about 7000ha of residential and horticultural land had increased protection as a result. I’ve been told the stopbank prevented floodwaters from flowing towards the city over a two-hour period during the cyclone,” Mr Jones says.

“It protected a reported 10,000 people and $7 billion of assets, including major transport links.”

Gisborne District Council is continuing work to upgrade a total of 64km of stopbanks bordering Waipaoa River.

Through the Government’s $211m Climate Resilience Flood Protection Fund, Kānoa has supported 55 projects nationwide. This is the most significant contribution for flood resilience projects in more than 30 years.

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