Call for councils to join forces on Hoopers Inlet issue

Part of Hoopers Inlet resident Sam Neill's property has been flooded because of the inlet...
Part of Hoopers Inlet resident Sam Neill's property has been flooded because of the inlet blockage. Photo by Jonathan Chilton-Towle

Hoopers Inlet residents would like to see the Dunedin City Council (DCC) and the Otago Regional Council (ORC) co-operate to clear the blocked inlet.

The inlet mouth became blocked with sand earlier in the year.

A local contractor was initially employed by the ORC to clear the mouth, but unfavourable weather undid the work.

High water levels resulting from the blockage have been undermining the integrity of the surrounding roads and have flooded parts of some neighbouring properties.

In July, heavy rains forced levels up over the road, forcing residents of the area to drive through water to leave their properties.

Last week, ORC regional services director Jeff Donaldson told The Star the ORC would not be doing anything to clear the blockage as it was not the ORC's responsibility to deal with it.

"I'm a little disappointed with Mr Donaldson's comment in last week's article," Hoopers Inlet resident Sam Neill said.

Mr Neill has lived by the inlet for more than 60 years. He now runs a bed and breakfast at his Allan's Beach Rd property.

He was among those residents cut off by heavy rain early in the year, and grazing wetlands on his property bordering the inlet had also been flooded because of the blockage.

He thought the ORC was probably not legally obliged to do anything about the problem, but he felt it did have a responsibility to do something.

He thought the DCC was obliged to do something because its roading infrastructure was being affected by the blockage.

Mr Neill said he would like to see some co-operation between the ORC and the DCC on the matter, but only if what they did was successful in keeping the inlet open.

The inlet was blocked once before, in the 1970s, and Mr Neill recalled it had taken several excavations to get it to stay open as unfavourable weather had always undone the work. The inlet had not been blocked for at least the past 15 years, since it was successfully unblocked and stayed unblocked in the '90s.

While he was not an engineer, he thought John Clearwater Contracting's recent efforts would have worked if it had not been for the weather conditions, Mr Neill said.

"I have a certain amount of sympathy with the viewpoint of not doing anything at the moment," he said.

"There is no point in opening it until there are the right weather conditions."

DCC roading maintenance engineer Peter Standring said the ORC decision not to clear the mouth was having a direct impact on the council's roading infrastructure surrounding the inlet.

"When you have water so close to a structure you are always likely to incur extra costs," he said.

The DCC had no power to clear the blockage as it was in the ORC's jurisdiction.

The DCC was employing a contractor to monitor the unsealed roads around the inlet and "keep them trafficable" by grading as required and filling in any potholes that appeared, Mr Standring said.

Planning was under way to build up the roads in a few areas, he said.

How much this work would cost was not clear yet, he said.


- By Jonathan Chilton-Towle



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