Mayor’s Flood Taskforce breaks back of flood problem

Press Release – Christchurch City Council

Hundreds of Christchurch households worst affected by flooding since the Canterbury Earthquake sequence will significantly benefit from todays Council decision to urgently implement a range of short term property and area wide defence measures. Thursday 5 June 2014

Mayor’s Flood Taskforce breaks back of flood problem

Hundreds of Christchurch households worst affected by flooding since the Canterbury Earthquake sequence will significantly benefit from today’s Council decision to urgently implement a range of short term property and area wide defence measures.

These measures include a $4.5 million dollar investment in a localised pump solution that will start providing flood protection to the Flockton community within eight weeks. Once fully operational, the pump is expected to provide significant benefit to 129 properties and reduced regular flooding for a further 214 in normal rain events.

“With the decisions made today we have broken the back of the city’s most pressing problem.” says Mayor Lianne Dalziel.

“We have already signed off purchase of the pipes for this project and have been advised by our engineers that this investment will not only bring short term relief but will also contribute to the longer term solutions.”

The Mayor said that as promised the Taskforce had worked day and night to produce exactly what was required – a comprehensive, evidence based, suite of immediate and short term measures to reduce the risk of repeated flooding to the most vulnerable households.

“The Tay street pump is a critical piece in this puzzle because it provides a very fast partial solution while we work with CERA, EQC and private insurers on the longer term engineering and policy options, including potentially changes in land use.”

Meanwhile the Mayor says she is very hopeful that the Government will respond positively to the Council’s request to make the earthquake temporary accommodation assistance available to those who have been forced to leave their properties as a result of earthquake-related flooding.

On May 22 as promised the Council provided CERA and the Minister of Earthquake Recovery the Hon Gerry Brownlee its provisional data on the number of properties most severely affected by flooding.

As requested it also put forward a range of proposals for immediate assistance from the Crown – including help pulling together short term relocation and financial assistance for families who have either been forced from their homes after repeated flooding or who are living in homes which may present a health risk and are likely to flood again over the winter.

Last Friday, May 31, the Mayor and Councillors met with the Minister and CERA officials to discuss the flooding issues and although no formal response to the proposals has yet been received, the Mayor said she was confident that the Crown would recognise the urgency of the situation.

“Our initial attempts to validate the Taskforce’s data through surveys, cold calling and community meetings have left us in no doubt that some families are no longer able to wait for EQC and insurers to sort out who is liable for what.

“This is an unprecedented situation that requires an unprecedented response – as requested the Council has gone to the Crown with a number of very specific requests to unlock resources intended for the earthquake recovery to assist these residents whose lives are literally on hold while legal questions about liability are determined by the courts and insurers.”

Yesterday the Christchurch City Council was granted leave to become a party to EQC’s High Court proceedings seeking a declaratory judgment clarifying its responsibilities for land damage claims. The Declarations sought are legal questions about calculating quantum of claims for land damage. A group of Flockton area residents and other claimants against insurance companies have also joined the proceedings.

“The Council has been looking at its legal options in relation to these most vulnerable properties but as a local authority we have a limited range of tools available to us.

“We need to be working hand in glove with the Government. This is clearly an earthquake recovery matter as envisaged by the CER legislation. While the body of scientific evidence about the subsidence of the city has been amassing since the Canterbury Earthquake sequence began three and a half years ago, it was not until this years’ extreme rain events that the full impact of the land damage became evident.”

In the meantime the Taskforce will make all its data available to CERA and is continuing to work closely with CERA officials on the longer term solutions – including potentially land use changes or a voluntary buy outs.

“As Mayor I have a responsibility to the whole city and I will not be pressured into committing tens of millions of rate payer dollars to long term engineering solutions without first understanding the implications not just for the individual property owners but also for the wider community – and, where the flooding is earthquake related, as it undoubtedly is in the Flockton/Dudley catchment, without first understanding the contributions EQC, the Crown (CDEM) and insurers will make and on what basis.

The Mayor says this reality is well understood by CERA and the Crown who undertook a lengthy and complex exercise establishing the criteria and basis on which it made voluntary buy-out offers in areas of the city that had experienced the most severe land damage.

“The interagency Flood Steering Management Group set up by CERA to ensure a whole of Government approach to solving earthquake related flooding, already has work underway on non-engineering options including land use changes.

The possible mechanisms for achieving this and the detailed policy work that needs to be done to inform these decisions is already on the work programme for the Flood Management Steering Committee.

The Taskforce has also been discussing its engineering solutions with EQC which has identified up to 9,000 Christchurch properties that potentially meet the criteria for increased flooding vulnerability (IFV) “as a result of the earthquake series due to on-site subsidence.” EQC is in the process of ground-truthing the estimate through property by property inspections.

Where it is possible, EQC has announced it is open to contributing towards offsite flood works as a way of resolving some claims, and has been working with the Christchurch City Council to identify where this may be an option.

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