Council continues to urge fault line properties be moved

The Alpine Fault is where oceanic tectonic plates the Pacific Plate and the Australian Plate meet...
The Alpine Fault. Image: AF
The Westland District Council is keeping up the pressure so properties built right on the Alpine Fault in Franz Josef Glacier are relocated.

Mayor Bruce Smith said the council had been trying for almost four years to get key services in the town — including the police station and fire station — moved to a new site just north of the present town site.

"In 2018, the [council] chief executive wrote to the fire service [Fire and Emergency NZ], police and the Department of Conservation, who have staff living in accommodation right on the faultline, and said, ‘We want you to shift’," Mr Smith said.

"Three months ago and last week he had another go.

"We’re constantly reminding them that in the event of a major earthquake we don’t want our services ... destroyed and of no value at all. We want them out of the way."

While the council had no jurisdiction to enforce the move, it had resumed a "master plan" involving rezoning land to the north for future subdivision.

The Franz Josef master plan was back on the agenda of the council meeting last week, although discussed behind closed doors.

However, Mr Smith confirmed it was progressing quickly now.

"We are weeks away from being able to take it to the first point of letting people have a look at it," he said.

A project leader had been appointed until Covid-19 caused a postponement last year.

It was placed on hold again while a $24million flood protection package was negotiated with the Government after the election.

Last week, the Government confirmed the release of $12million — half of what was initially proposed to ring-fence the town from the river — for new stopbanks along the northern banks.

Mr Smith said they had been planning for both sides of the Waiho to be protected but welcomed the news the north works would soon go to tender. The Government had also given an undertaking to look at future options for the south bank.

One of those proposed by the West Coast Regional Council includes moving the state highway and buying up all the privately owned land on the south bank to let the river naturally fan out.

That would involve 2500ha of private land with a capital value of $30million.

Longer term, both councils supported a northern migration away from both the river and the faultline, the mayor said.

"The council and the community have made it very clear that a slow progression to the north is the way of the future."

The master plan would focus on future land use, including zoning changes in the short term.

"We will be zoning the land to the north of the town so people will know where they can put commercial, where they can put residential."

Core infrastructure would also go there. The master plan to address earthquake, flooding and other natural hazards in Franz Josef Glacier by managing land use got traction last year — four years after an earlier attempt was thrown out.

— By Janna Sherman, Hokitika Guardian


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