Council still to select April flooding review panel members

 

1 June 2017

Muddy Waters
The Rotorua Lakes Council says it has yet to select members of a planned independent review of the is working with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to set up a panel looking in the late-April floods.
The Mud asked the council whether it was possible to say who will be on the advisory panel and whether the board would operate independently of the two councils.
A further question asked whether the board would utilise the services of professional agencies, as the BOP Regional Council did when examining the April 2017 flooding events in Edgecumbe, Eastern Bay of Plenty.
In a written reply to the questions, RLC chief executive Geoff Williams said:
“Rotorua Lakes Council and Bay of Plenty Regional Council are working together and have co-commissioned a review to consider future flood mitigation and prevention measures for Rotorua.
“As part of that work together [two councils] will decide the terms of reference and select an advisory panel made up of members who are independent of both councils.
The selection of panel members is yet to be finalised.
“In the first instance the panel will be supported by technical staff from both councils, however, should a broader or alternative view the panel will seek external technical advice.”

 

Edgecumbe floods provide perspective
Following the 6 April 2017 Edgecumbe floods, which saw water from Rangitāiki River breach a stop bank protecting the township, BOP Regional Council chair, Doug Leeder, announced on 10 April that there would be an “independent review of the infrastructure and the circumstances that led to the breach of a flood wall and associated flooding through the town…”
The Regional Council Chair said he had discussed the review with Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne. He said that the timing was appropriate as the regional and district council response moves into recovery phase.
Chairman Leeder explained that the review would be independent and would be chaired by Sir Michael Cullen to ensure an impartial, arms-length assessment of Council infrastructure and activity.
“Sir Michael has accepted the role of Chair and will lead a group of experts through this review process.  Regional Councillors will work with Sir Michael, with involvement from Mayor Bonne, to establish membership of the review committee.
We will also work together to establish the official scope of the review.  In general terms, it will be focussed on the events leading up to the breach of the flood wall. That includes design, engineering, maintenance and management of the assets that Regional Council manages on behalf of the community,” Mr Leeder said.
The timing for the review was due to be mapped out further in consultation with the group, but findings are expected in July 2017.
The findings were released by Sir Michael on 3 October and more details can be found via the link below.
As well as the technical findings, the review focused on what more the two councils could have done and included an in-depth review of communications processes.
“The Panel is concerned that there has been insufficient attention paid to the risks faced by the Edgecumbe community particularly while the Rangitāiki River Scheme was being upgraded or to planning for evacuation in the case of overtopping or stop bank failure. Further there is little evidence of Regional Council maintaining awareness of the community through statutory and evacuation planning. It also appears that many of the residents of Edgecumbe, for whatever reasons, were insufficiently aware of the risks of serious flooding in the township.”
The Panel provided detailed recommendations to the Council to improve current flood hazard management planning and the geotechnical elements of the scheme as well as advice on sustainable flood risk management solutions in the long term, the BOP Regional Council statement said.

One aspect of this report that of possible interest in Rotorua may be around the statement regarding the need “To provide further analysis of why there were inadequate evacuation plans in place for the urban areas adjacent to the Rangitāiki River” and “The modelling of this very large flood event did not show any substantial inundation”.
 

Ongoing social impacts

The Catholic charity agency, St Vincent de Paul, has reported as recently as May 2018, that 93 homes in Edgecumbe still need to be repaired, 12 properties have finally been removed and the repair to the stop bank began in April – a year after the flood.
Local doctors also raised concerns as many residents remain on sleeping pills and anti-depressants since the event, with people still surviving in ad hoc living arrangements.
For more information on the Edgecumbe flood report, go to:
https://www.boprc.govt.nz/latest-news/media-releases/media-releases-2017/october-2017/findings-of-the-independent-review-into-rangitaiki-river-scheme

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