Time to abandon flood-hit Henley?

Henley residents Allan Innes (left) and Jay MacLean have been battling the Otago Regional Council...
Henley residents Allan Innes (left) and Jay MacLean have been battling the Otago Regional Council for nearly nine years to have flood protection infrastructure maintained. Photo: Gregor Richardson
As the Otago Regional Council lags on Henley flood work, a councillor has floated the idea of retreating from the settlement altogether.

The council yesterday discussed how its schemes fared after floods last week, during which the tiny Taieri settlement of Henley was cut off for days and some residents were evacuated.

Cr Bryan Scott questioned whether the council would invest in flood protection at the settlement in the future, or "pull out".

"At what point do we say that community is in the wrong place? We’re reminded that we’ve got a situation that’s pretty vulnerable out there.

"It’s going to get worse, and we’re being remiss — we’re putting our head in the sand."

Cr Carmen Hope said the people of  Henley were "quite resilient" and would not be pushed out easily.

Council engineering, hazards and science director Gavin Palmer said it did not need to choose to "pull out" of Henley at this point, because it had little infrastructure there  to maintain.

However, Henley became a "focus" during floods, taking "up quite a bit of time".

"It starts to distract from some higher-risk decisions on that scheme and other schemes."

Flood work projects at the settlement were not "going as fast" as he would like, nor at the rate he committed to, he said.

That was because staff were busy with large amounts of flood work across the region, including the investigation of removing obstructions to surface flows, an additional culvert at the south end of the highway, and evening out the flood bank.

There were no major problems with how the flood scheme fared overall last week, he said.

Henley resident Allan Innes said all the community was asking for were "small improvements" and for the council to keep its infrastructure up-to-date.

"Put yourself in our shoes — we’ve been at them since 2010. We’re asking for maybe $100,000 max, and they keep on putting up road blocks."

He realised the community’s suggestions for work would not completely solve the problem.

"The area is going to flood, we can live with that, but this work would maybe give us a few more hours, make things better than they have been."

• Cr Graeme Bell said flooding in Ophir meant work would likely be needed to align the Manuherikia River towards the bridge.

"We could lose the direction of the river altogether. I want us to look seriously at getting some work done."

Dr Palmer said staff were investigating what work would need to be done there.Council chief executive Sarah Gardner said its reaction to the flood marked a "really proud moment" for the organisation.

"We know our business well in this area. The communication channels between all of us were really good."

jono.edwards@odt.co.nz

Comments

The chief Executive said "The communication channels between all of us were really good." Really? Pity the same cannot be said for communication of all or you with with all of us, the residents, who pay your salary. ORC, you are in your own little world, distanced and out of touch with everyday man and woman.

IMO this is happening way to much in the public sectors. they need to be held accountable and be gone, I honestly feel nothing will happen until people start to protest outside the offices of such places and with News crews in attendance. and that goes for the DCC as well.

I believe all the Henley residents are asking for is that the long neglected infrastructure be maintained as per the district plan , it would be but a drop in the bucket when you look at the 20 million the ORC has spent ( wasted ?? ) trying to find somewhere to build a new palace for all the head honchos to further shine the seat of their pants !

 

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