Opinion: South D brings MPs together

Efforts to elevate the South Dunedin Futures (flood protection) project are being progressed within government circles.

I recently hosted mayor Jules Radich and key members of Dunedin City Council (DCC) management at Parliament to brief Climate Change Minister Simon Watts on the range of proposals being put forward.

I was joined by Taieri MP Ingrid Leary and Green List MP Scott Willis as we seek to bring a bipartisan approach to Wellington.

While we may not agree on all the details, we have identified a commonality in the direction of travel on this matter. We require common-sense solutions that will endure into the future. The planning process need not be overly political when we consider the importance of the South Dunedin community.

The DCC is to be congratulated in bringing a broader view and consulting widely with the community. However, it is my view there is some low-hanging fruit to be harvested as we work through the wider strategy. And my perspective is very much focused on the engineering solution.

The purchase of Forbury Park was a critical component. Some form of urban wetland or water storage amenity is the obvious use case, alongside some pumping infrastructure. The wider plans to create a water course from Bathgate and Tonga parks might also feature in this initial phase.

Clearly timelines and funding will play a major part in the decision-making process. Adaptation against climate risk is a topical subject and one for which the government has recently opened an inquiry.

While Simon Watts cautioned against ad hoc solutions during our meeting, he did acknowledge the good work that had been done to date.

Funds like the soon to be instigated regional infrastructure fund that will have a climate change adaptation element may be an opportunity.

I have advised the DCC not to hide behind the door when the final scope is announced. There are already proposals, including flood bank restoration around West Taieri, up for consideration.

No-one knows when the next major flooding event will occur and the community won’t thank us for a lack of concrete actions, given the painful lessons of 2015.