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Floodplain plan to the fore

One of the main sticking points in South Wairarapa is the controversy over Greater Wellington Regional Council’s Waiohine River Floodplain Management Plan. The Times-Age asked all five mayoral candidates where they stood on the issue.


Liz Mellish, Featherston

“When there is a major weather event causing a one in 100 year flood the impact will be Wairarapa wide. While there is a direct effect on Greytown, Carterton and their residents from the Waiohine it will also effect the upper and lower reaches of the Ruamahanga communities too. Therefore this work must be considered along with all Wairarapa waterways. The plan is well researched and presented and the question ‘should we take the risk of doing nothing to protect people?’ must be answered with a firm no. SWDC and Carterton need to work closely with Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) to find the way to ensure the burden on rates is realistic. A wider consultation with all the Wairarapa is needed and this plan must be viewed with a wider lens. My belief is that decisions to proceed on such a major project must be considered through the South Wairarapa lens, not just a narrow Greytown view.”


Sue Fox, Featherston

“Flood protection is a matter for the regional council and the process for the development of the plan has been fair and reasonable, giving those directly concerned an opportunity to comment. There is no doubt that a flood management plan is needed to protect people, homes and businesses. There are those spreading fear and alarm about the cost to ratepayers of putting the plan into effect. Over the next five years, 50 per cent is intended to be raised by rates on those in the Carterton and South Wairarapa floodplains directly benefitting from the work. Well, for a start, that is going to be spread over the next five years and I am also confident we can find innovative ways of funding the work over a number of generations of ratepayers, to reduce the immediate burden. I have faith in the regional council and I want to see our district protected.”


John Hayes, Greytown

“Greytown councillors Margaret Craig and Viv Napier cannot have read flood scheme documents, despite being in the job for many years. The Waiohine reached a one in 100 -year flood in 1982 when the measured flow was 1581 cumecs [cubic metres per second]. It caused no significant damage or urban flooding. So what is the problem? GWRC engineer James Flanagan said a 100- year flood will cause $65-$67 million of damage. Why did that not happen in 1982?  No GWRC reports in the past eight years or their computer models have been independently peer reviewed. The proposed cost of $10 million is more than our community can afford. Our elected councillors should never have let this debacle happen. It arose because local experts were ignored. I am standing for mayor because facing amalgamation, our community needs leaders who read the background documents, understand them and have the capacity to make sound decisions.”


Viv Napier, Greytown

“I’ve been a member of the Waiohine Advisory Committee since its inception and co-chair for two years. The draft has been in preparation for eight years. The committee resolved to put the draft plan out for public consultation as it felt that discussion with the GWRC was ‘going around and around’ and wanted to hear feedback from ratepayers and residents. This was the right move. Concerns raised by the committee and submitters are cost, flood modelling, funding and property impact. I was nominated as a hearing panel member but made myself unavailable on August 17, as I had concerns regarding the process of the hearings. I had alerted GWRC to some of these concerns in late June. I believe that there should be independent commissioners to hear submissions, a review of the modelling and the flood protection works and more information on the rates impact.”


Graham Higginson, Martinborough

“Quite simply the Waiohine River Floodplain Management Plan is a failure in the fact that the regional council has failed to get neighbouring land owners to buy into it. There was a meeting hosted by John Hayes, another mayoral candidate, on the floodplain proposal and at that meeting there was huge opposition to it. Therefore it is also my view that the South Wairarapa District Council should not move forward on it until after the elections. Anything that effects the environment, we need to be very careful, not rush decisions, be sure of our facts and go from there. Should this proposal go ahead there will be major problems in the foreseeable future.”


  1. Masterton and Carterton do not support the GWRC Floodplain Management Plan as it stands today and have informed GWRC in clear terms. SWDC formally supported it in principle in 2015 and since. Their withdrawal from the hearings panel and not making any submission, then denying both does not foster the trust of ratepayers for anyone involved. Meanwhile, Greytown’s concerned residents group has significant technical knowledge and experience on hand and has progressed the issue with GWRC to a point where it is understood that Greytown does not want a scheme that will not work as stated, but will cost more than is affordable.
    Also, the GWRC plan does not take into account the effects of floods on other parts of Wairarapa. The whole premise of cost/benefit is skewed when you consider who will be affected by ANY 1 in 100 year flood anywhere near, say, SH2. Who pays for that and who benefits from the plan doe such? To say that only one town benefits from a flood prevention scheme there is nonsense. Ultimately, we need a Wairarapa combined floodplain management plan. Isn’t the integrated, strategic approach supposed to be the responsibility of GWRC?

  2. Hayes brings up a salient point – Gwrc no consult or peer review. In my humble opinion this is the crux. The elephant is mayor staples and her views… Could she be canvassed pls. How well does laidlaw understand the issues, bring back fran! she lives here.
    Mellish understands the issues, fox would appear to be in the pocket of the Gwrc, Napier knows everything on paper which I understand is her major skill, Hayes has allegedly commercial interests and Higginson is on the ball. Ask staples!

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