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Calls for more work on river management

Calls for more work on river management
The debris built up at the Ashburton/Hakatere Bridge on Monday. 

Mid Canterbury farmer Darryl Butterick has called the latest flooding a “wake-up call for Ecan”.

Butterick’s deer, beef, and sheep farm near Greenstreet was devastated two years ago during the 2021 Ashburton floods, with paddocks, fences and roads wrecked and livestock killed or displaced.

The farm experienced some ponding and surface flooding at the weekend but little damage, he said. But he felt there has been a lack of progress in removing gravel and silt from the nearby river.

“While Ecan has completed a lot of repairs and maintenance they’ve done very little about removing gravel from the river,” he said.

“There’s too much bureaucracy and not enough practical work being done.”

In many ways, Environment Canterbury councillor Ian Mackenzie tended to agree.

Mackenzie said a lot of work has been done since the 2021 floods but barriers were preventing more work from being done.

“We are well aware of the issues and we are working bloody hard to come up with the right solutions.

“A dollar today doesn’t go as far as it used to.”

Compliance and monitoring costs are impacting the amount of budget that goes “on actually doing the work”, he said, as well as the Resource Management Act being restrictive.

The cost of the 2021 recovery is going to come in at $22m, Mackenzie said.

The fact the river didn’t breach the repaired banks “would suggest that what has been done, despite some of it still being vulnerable, worked quite well”, Mackenzie said.

The Ashburton River flow on Sunday was half of what it was in 2021 and Mackenzie said when he stood on the bridge with ECan staff on Sunday night the debris “seemed to be no big stuff, just a big pile of small stuff.”

At some stage, it will need to be cleared and ECan will resume river management works.

In June Mackenzie aired his disappointment in getting no commitment to investing in flood protection from the Government in the Budget.

Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown supports the push for Government co-funding of flood protection.

“The Government must step up and do something as this is too big for ratepayers to pick up.”

By Jonathan Leask