Damien O’Connor says clarity is coming to West Coast flood-affected farms

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West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O’Connor. Photo / File

Tasmania West Coast MP Damien O’Connor said landowners on the south side of the Waiho (Waiau) River at Franz Josef Glacier should have a clearer idea of ​​options for their future during the new Year.

Ministry officials have worked with engineers and the NZTA to develop a long-term plan for the Waiho Flat, and that document should be available soon, O’Connor said.

“I can understand the frustration of the farmers, but it would be a government or a brave person investing huge sums of money in an area that will always be threatened by this river. There are a number of options and none of them come cheap. “

Options offered in the past have included buying out the farmers and letting the river stretch across its natural floodplain.

The most recent Waiho report confirmed that raising the bank would be a short-term solution at best, as the riverbed would continue to rise, O’Connor said.

“Physics would say it’s impossible to hold back this river forever, and my frustration is that the city council has continued to allow investments in homes and buildings on the south side while the long-term plan for the area is likely to mean some sort of withdrawal. “

National Party List MP Maureen Pugh said the government must decide on the future of the farms repeatedly hammered by the river.

As part of NZ First’s ‘out of the box’ initiative, the previous Labor-led coalition pledged funding to extend the banks on both sides of the river, but after the election the new Labor government has confirmed funding only for the north shore and the township.

Pugh said that since then the Savage River has caused massive damage to one of the district’s most productive dairy farms, destroying pastures on the south shore and leaving them littered with rocks and debris.

“It has happened more than once and it is expensive to fix – not to mention having to buy food and send cows to pasture – these people need to know what their future is.”

If the government planned to let the river flow through the south bank, it would have to let the community know, Pugh said.

“It’s been going on for 18 months now. If they don’t keep their promise, they should come up and say it.”

The West Coast Regional Council, which builds and owns the dams, has research showing the Waiho bed is increasing year by year, made up of gravel and rock washed away by the mountains as the Franz Josef Glacier recedes.

Whether to continue to expand the banks or let the river run its course and unfold through its natural floodplain has been under discussion for some time in official circles.

Pugh said landowners are entitled to some certainty about their future.

“It’s cruel to let people keep spending money on their farms if the government just wants to abandon them.”

It would cost between $ 80 million and $ 100 million to buy back all the farms, and it wasn’t sure that was what the government was considering, Pugh said.

“I have sent written parliamentary questions to the government, asking if it will honor its initial commitment and what its intentions are for the landowners.”

Dairy farmers Neil and Kath Frendrup lost 15 paddocks in the last flood in early December, when more than 400mm of rain fell in the watershed in seven days, and the river swept the end of the bank to their farm.

The damaged land was part of a hundred hectares devastated during the great flood of 2019 when the couple had to take out a loan to restore their pasture.

The regional council has offered to build a temporary extension for the Frendrups for $ 200,000 pending the government’s funding decision.

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