Residents voice concerns

Middlemarch residents listen at a meeting with Dunedin City and Otago Regional Council staff...
Middlemarch residents listen at a meeting with Dunedin City and Otago Regional Council staff about serious flooding last month. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Emotions were high in Middlemarch last night as residents had the chance to face the Otago Regional Council and Dunedin City Council following the January floods.

About 70 people attended a public meeting at the Strath Taieri Community Hall to voice their frustrations over issues they felt were not remedied by both councils following the 2018 floods.

The common view was that if further work had been undertaken, it could have mitigated the damage this time.

Following heavy rain at the beginning of this year, March Creek broke its banks and flooded businesses, homes and properties.

Otago Regional Council engineering manager Michelle Mifflin explained what immediate work was carried out following the flooding, and what work was done under the council’s river management scheme.

But the community did not seem satisfied.

Resident Norma Emerson, who had to close her business following the January flood, asked why they had to wait for a second flood for that work to happen.

She believed that while it may not have stopped the flood, it could have mitigated the damage.

"You guys don’t care about Middlemarch.

"I think you guys should think about who you serve," she said, addressing both councils.

Discussion heated up further as residents questioned what Ms Mifflin and the regional council’s definition of "regular maintenance" was.

Many residents said they had not seen any evidence of debris being cleared from March Creek and culverts in years.

Photos, taken recently by resident Sheila Ramsay of areas in March Creek, claimed to show where "choke points" remained.

Leigh Overton, who had owned a holiday home in Middlemarch for about 17 years, said before the meeting there was a perception among the community that the city and regional councils did not care about outlying areas.

"There appears to be no transparency as to what work is to occur and what the final outcomes are to be expected from such work,’’ she said.

It was also noted by some residents there were significant "barriers" to organising yesterday’s meeting and that pressure was required to make it happen.

City council infrastructure services general manager Simon Drew said improvements made to the city council’s waste water management network following the 2018 flood — which involved sealing manholes where water had surged — had made a difference to the amount of sewage leaking into flood waters during the recent flood.

A range of ideas was discussed to address the issue, including the potential to enhance the area’s river management with elements of a flood protection scheme.

Regional council chairman Andrew Noone, who attended the meeting, said that was something the community could advocate for through their community board.

It was good to hear first-hand what had happened in Middlemarch during both floods, he said."

When asked what confidence both councils could give ratepayers of Middlemarch that there would be some resolution to their concerns, Mr Drew said he was hearing loud and clear there was a lack of maintenance on city council assets.

Cr Noone said it had given them plenty to think about, and while he could not guarantee something would happen immediately, the council was listening.


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