The Ruamahanga River. PHOTO/FILE

PAM GRAHAM
pam.graham@age.co.nz

Tricky issues about how much money will be spent on stopbanks to protect Masterton from floods have been put to one side and will be worked on by a new group including community members.

This has allowed endorsement of key aspects of the Te Kauru Upper Ruamahanga River Floodplain Management Plan after five years of work.

Floodplain subcommittee chairman Bob Francis says the endorsement is a “significant moment for the region”.

“The plan strongly reflects the views of the community, which were expressed during consultation and engagement,” he says.

There was a push by some to delay the whole plan for another 12 months but a compromise has been reached, recognising more work needs to be done on urban river reaches and for the community to be
involved in that.

A key element was an independent report, made public after many submitted, which took a conservative view of the risks to Masterton.

Francis said as a result of the findings of the independent audit and public feedback, it was decided more work needed to be to be done on the flood hazard maps and management options for the Masterton urban section of the plan.

They have been removed from the plan pending further consideration and investigation over the next two years likely to cost $350,000.

“But in the rural areas it is absolutely vital that we get on to dealing with the erosion and flooding risks and lead the change towards more sustainable river management by signing off the plan,” Francis said.

Generally, this work can be described as allowing rivers more room to move in.

He is pleased an endorsement of the flood plan has been achieved.

During the past five years, he said, the subcommittee had worked together to balance communities’ needs with the risks posed by flooding and erosion, and managing these in a way that better reflected the value the community placed on the major rivers in the Te Kauru catchment.

The endorsement of the plan will progress essential works such as erosion management for the old Masterton Cemetery, landfill and recycling centre, establishment of river management groups and environmental enhancements.

A new Masterton Urban Working Group will take a more detailed look into the condition of stopbanks and what can be done about the risk they pose.

The subcommittee is also recommending the preparation of flood hazard information for use in the Wairarapa Combined District Plan change process, taking in the findings of the independent audit.

The subcommittee comprised iwi and community members from across the farming, business, rural and urban residential communities, and councillors from Masterton District Council, Carterton District Council, and Greater Wellington Regional Council.

It has spent the past few months consulting with communities about the final version of the plan, most recently completing a hearing process in April that considered 61 submissions and the findings of an independent audit that covered the hydraulic modelling and hydrology used to develop the flood hazard maps.

Final consideration of the plan will be undertaken by the regional council at its environment committee meeting on June 20.

“I’d like to record my sincere thanks to the community who engaged with us in making this plan and for the hard work put in by the subcommittee to make this a robust, effective and sustainable plan,” Francis says.

He said there were precedents in the region for forming groups comprising councils and community representatives to work on river catchment issues.