Whanganui public asked about flood protection

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A riverside building is surrounded in the June 2015 flood. PHOTO/ FILE

By Laurel Stowell

Whanganui people will soon have an intensive 12 days to decide about further flood protection, Horizons Regional Council river manager Ramon Strong says.

"We are trying to elevate the issue as much as we can over that period of time."

The "conversation" begins on February 22 and ends on March 5. There will be two public meetings, stalls at the River Traders' market and a temporary stall at the Davis Library.

Mr Strong said the council had no preconceived ideas about what should happen.

Leaflets distributed in Anzac Pde by Steve Baron, a resident of the flood affected street, were eliciting emails and giving him a idea what to expect.

Since the June 2015 flood Horizons has done priority post-flood work and collated information. The council can talk about the current level of flood protection for the town. It is 200-year flood protection with freeboard at Balgownie, 30-year flood protection with no freeboard at Anzac Pde and no protection for Putiki or downtown Moutoa Quay and Victoria Ave.

The council will talk about flood risk, which includes the likelihood and randomness of floods, and their consequences. And it can talk in broad detail about alternative protections and their costs.

Little work has been done on possible scenarios, and Mr Strong doesn't want Whanganui people to feel more stopbanks are being foisted on them.

"We wouldn't go down that path unless we got a fairly clear sense of direction from the community," he said.

Climate change makes flooding more likely, with an atmosphere that holds more moisture and Whanganui bearing the brunt of westerlies.

Whanganui Horizons councillor David Cotton is keen to hear from as many groups and individuals as possible. He said if more flood protection is wanted, it will impact everybody - not just people who live by the river.

He knows there are people who want more flood protection and people who want no flood protection, and wants to hear from the people in the middle.

The views of Whanganui District councillors will be discussed and voted on, probably at a February 28 committee meeting, Mayor Hamish McDouall said.

Mr Strong said the flood protection conversation will be complex, with no easy answers. The council will do its best to provide the information needed to make decisions.

Any action decided on would be built into the council's 2018-28 Long-term Plan.

+ Public meeting 7pm February 22, Whanganui War Memorial Centre

+ Public meeting 7pm February 27, Whanganui Girls' College

+ Stalls River Traders' market February 25 and March 4

+ written feedback to floodprotectionfeedback@horizons.govt.nz

+ spoken feedback to free phone 0508 800 800

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