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River plan up for critique

Waiohine River. PHOTO/FILE

Greater Wellington Regional Council is urging Wairarapa residents to have their say on the future of one of the valley’s most significant rivers. Consultation for a new Waiohine River Plan will close on July 30 at 5pm.

According to the regional council, the plan simplified extensive work for flood protection options, undertaken before scheme management was transferred to the broader community with continuing support from the regional council.

“The outcome we’ve delivered for consideration is an affordable flood protection plan that will protect public safety while preserving, as far as possible, the natural character and cultural values of the river” regional councillor and Waiohine Steering Group chairwoman Adrienne Staples said.

The regional council said the plan would reflect an updated approach to flood protection which “treads a fine line” between meeting the interests of the people and their assets, and environmental protection.

The plan paves the way for a 70-year vision for better flood protection and the gradual improvement and restoration of a living corridor, pristine water, flora, and fauna [including aquatic species].

The regional council hoped the plan would lead to better environmental, cultural, social, and economic outcomes for the river from the gorge to the confluence with the Ruamahanga River.

The Times-Age reported in 2016 that the initial plan had been quashed, because the community was unwilling to accept it.

The draft Waiohine Floodplain Management Plan was issued for public consultation in June/July 2016 and received 107 submissions from individuals and groups, the regional council said.

The council said most of the submissions opposed the draft FMP on one or more grounds.

After consultation with Carterton District Council and South Wairarapa District Council, the regional council revoked the draft FMP.

Staples said the council had taken an approach endorsed by the Wairarapa public many years ago with this new plan.

“Since then, the Waiohine project team has refined its proposals, and now the public must have its say on the progress we’ve made.”

The regional council said the new plan would lower costs to about $2 million, a reduction of $8m on the original FMP, while maintaining standards delivered by previous investment in flood protection and management of the Waiohine.

Staples said the work was a balancing act: “While affordability was important, so were broader outcomes such as improving the river to ensure it’s a corridor of clean water, native flora and fauna, tikanga and beautiful spaces”.

She said there was a call for a community-led flood protection plan in 2017, and that is what the project group had created.

“The Waiohine Action Group must be congratulated for playing a key role in getting us to this point. It’s now up to the community to take up the baton and take ownership by giving us full and frank feedback.”

Once the full plan completed its consultation period, a panel would hear oral submissions from the public in August. The plan would then be amended as necessary before presentation to the regional council for endorsement.

The plan can be viewed and submissions made on the regional council “Have Your Say” website.

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