'Confident' over flood protection measures

An aerial view of the Clutha River in flood. Photo: Otago Regional Council
An aerial view of the Clutha River in flood. Photo: Otago Regional Council
Lawrence residents remain polarised as to whether remedial flood works in the town will prove effective.

Public anxieties came to the fore at a community board meeting in August last year, during which the Clutha District Council was criticised for perceived inaction resolving the issue - following a serious flood 14 months before, which inundated properties and businesses.

Resident Gordon Duthie, who highlighted community concerns at the meeting, told the Otago Daily Times this week he was "very confident" the steps since taken by the council would avert all but the most serious future flood events.

"Most of the people I spoke to then and have been tracking since are pretty pleased with developments. There are some final elements still to go in place but, once they're in, I feel the major issues have been addressed."

However, fellow resident Sam Eichler, who experienced culvert flooding in Campbelton St during a further downpour in November last year, was less upbeat.

He said ambiguity remained over responsibilities for drainage adjoining private property, and more work remained to be done.

"Preventative measures need to be taken fairly urgently. I'm certain another flood is highly likely unless major works are undertaken."

Jim Merrill, whose Wild Walnut Cafe in Ross Pl was flooded to a depth of 80cm during the 2017 event, said work done by the council would "help significantly", but he remained cautious.

"Unfortunately, you can't tell what the weather will do. Some [flood] events are perhaps inevitable."

A council spokesman said it had worked closely with the NZ Transport Agency and Otago Regional Council to address key "trouble spots".

The total cost of works was expected to exceed $100,000.

Work remaining to be done included a new box culvert for Colonsay St; and a second culvert and stormwater extension for the Irvine St-Hill St intersection, to be completed next year.

Other new measures would include community education on steps residents could take to help maintain drainage flow, and the formulation of "weather plans".

These would allow the council to identify high-risk weather events, and check and clear known drainage trouble spots in advance.

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said he was "cautiously optimistic".

"There is always the caution that no two weather events are alike and the town's topography, combined with the increasing intensity and frequency of storms, means ... we can never eliminate the risk of flooding in the future."

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