Mayor supports ‘Making Space for Water’

Publish Date : 17 May 2023
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Mayor Wayne Brown is backing a practical and achievable programme that would accelerate planned flood management works across the region – delivering in six years what would normally take three decades.

The ‘Making Space for Water’ programme is being developed by Healthy Waters as part of Auckland Council’s flood recovery programme, led by the Recovery Office.

It proposes nine operational initiatives, ranging from increased stormwater maintenance and stream rehabilitation to blue-green projects and site-specific solutions for high-risk properties.

Next week, the proposal will go to the Governing Body for endorsement, and approval for public consultation on the programme and associated costs from June 2023.

“We need to make space for water to move safely through the region without causing unacceptable risk to people, property, infrastructure, and the environment,” Mayor Brown said.

“Preparing for floods is an important part of climate change adaptation. We are taking action to drive significant progress, and deliver on our commitment to giving communities the tools they need to be resilient.

“With thousands of properties directly affected by recent flood events, Aucklanders want clear communication, direction, and leadership from central and local government to help them make decisions.

“Developing the programme quickly will help inform the central government’s Cyclone Gabrielle Recovery Taskforce, and ensure that Auckland Council has a well-defined approach to recovery and risk reduction.”

‘Making Space for Water’ would prioritise known areas of critical flood risk, but further investigative work is needed before these locations can be confirmed.

The Mayor remains firm on his position around managed retreat, and Auckland Council is awaiting clarity on the policy direction from central government.

Auckland Council cannot act as the sole guarantor for private properties. However, property acquisition is appropriate for stormwater solutions that benefit the wider community as part of our plans for ‘Making Space for Water’,” Mayor Brown said.

The programme would ensure that flood readiness is prioritised in daily stormwater operations, and that communities, households, and businesses are supported to build their resilience to storms. The need for investment in rain radar and weather modelling tools was also highlighted.

The cost of addressing flood risks in an acceptable timeframe is beyond the capacity of Auckland Council alone. At this stage, the indicative cost of ‘Making Space for Water’ is likely to be in excess of $1 billion over six years.

Funding to support the programme next year would be part of the final Mayoral Proposal. Additional sources of funding would also need to be investigated, including private sources, targeted rates, and central government.

“I am working hard to put Auckland Council on secure financial footing, so we can respond to these challenges and focus on providing core infrastructure and services,” Mayor Brown said.

Last week, Mayor Brown met with Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Auckland Minister Michael Wood, who all agreed that central and local government’s approach to flood and cyclone recovery needs to be aligned.  

The Government’s Cyclone Gabrielle Recovery Taskforce is leading a process – with involvement from insurance companies, banks, and Auckland Council – to engage with affected communities and individuals.

Auckland Council is looking forward to continued discussions with central government and welcomes this weekend’s Budget announcements.

“I appreciate that many Aucklanders require greater certainty. This requires significant funding and takes time, but work is underway at pace. I will have more to share with our affected communities soon,” Mayor Brown said. 

The ‘Making Space for Water’ programme proposes nine initiatives:

  1. Blue-green networks in critical flood-risk areas: Stormwater solutions (stream daylighting, widening, and realignment), enhancing parkland or open space, and property acquisition and removal.
  2. High-risk properties: Working with property owners on engineering solutions, managed retreat, and property acquisition.
  3. Culvert and bridge upgrades: The assessment, replacement, and upgrade of vulnerable assets.
  4. Overland flow path management: Work to repair, maintain, and monitor overland flow paths, and educate property owners.
  5. Rural settlements: Responding to three waters needs in storm-affected communities including marae and papakāinga, and supporting community resilience planning.
  6. Flood intelligence: Investment in planning and modelling tools to enhance council decision-making.
  7. Stream rehabilitation: Vegetation management, slope stabilisation, bank battering, stream channel modification, and advice for property owners.
  8. Community-led flood resilience: Advice for property owners in high-risk areas, industry-specific advice, public events, and awareness campaigns.
  9. Increased maintenance: Maximising stormwater networks’ efficiency, including street sweeping, catchpit cleaning, and weed clearance from streams.

Councillor Richard Hills, Chair of the Planning, Environment & Parks Committee, says “It is crucial we listen to and work with affected communities as we develop our plans. We must take leadership on blue-green infrastructure and rollout interventions that respond to climate change and improve our environment.”

Chair, Transport & Infrastructure Committee, Councillor John Watson, says “Progress has been made in planning for this crucial infrastructure of the future. Now we need to ensure timely delivery of the actual projects to address these flood risks.”

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