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3 Local Government Position Statement

The Local Government New Zealand Regional Affairs Sub-Committee on Flooding has developed a position statement on flood risk management for the Government. The position statement acknowledges that local government largely has the statutory tools necessary to achieve effective flood management, but notes that there is inconsistent implementation of those tools across the country. The position statement identifies solutions to improve flood risk management practice, and many of the solutions require central government action.

Local government’s aim for flood risk management is:

Sustainable river and catchment management that achieves the particular level of flood hazard protection desired and accepted by each distinct community of interest, with residual risks fully understood and taken into account.

This aim acknowledges that communities and individuals must be responsible for deciding on their particular level of flood protection. It also recognises that a one-size-fits-all approach to flood management is unrealistic.

Local government acknowledges that residual risks could remain at a 'higher than desirable' level where the community decides, for affordability and other reasons, to accept a lower level of protection. Dealing with this residual risk will need to be addressed at the district or regional level.

The position statement outlines the following solutions that central government could address in a non-prescriptive and process-oriented national policy statement:

  • make flood management a matter of national importance

  • facilitate holistic catchment management that integrates flooding from all sources and the impacts of catchment land use

  • require community-scale assessments of flood hazard risks to be undertaken in a nationally consistent manner, with appropriate avoidance and mitigation strategies being developed by local government for each community of interest

  • include the impacts of climate change in flood hazard risks assessments

  • require disclosure of residual risk to communities

  • proactively plan for and manage residual risk and its consequences

  • overtly consider the merits of relocation or staged retreat as opposed to the
    re-establishment of infrastructure, buildings and other assets

  • require preference to be given to flood hazard avoidance in RMA documents

  • balance private property rights with public interest matters in high flood-risk areas

  • remove the presumption that former NWASCO5 and current Building Act flood protection standards are always appropriate values to use

  • require infrastructure to cater for known flood hazard risks and avoid exacerbating those risks

  • require all Crown agencies and other national bodies to have an objective to reduce the impact of their activities on the flood risk in local catchments.

The position statement suggests that solutions for local government to implement are to:

  • consistently implement hazard avoidance provisions in RMA documents

  • undertake a better review of and develop a better response to land-use intensification.

The position statement also identifies other critical barriers outside a national policy statement. Local government suggests that solutions could be provided by central government to:

  • provide funding assistance to under-resourced councils to boost their institutional capacity

  • provide funding in recognition of the national interest nature of, and national benefit provided by, some flood management activities

  • facilitate the training of flood management practitioners

  • provide safety net funding to at-risk communities for flood avoidance, protection or warning systems

  • properly consider the true cost of responding to flood events when assessing appropriate responses, and recognise who actually pays for remediation

  • allow Crown land to be rated (or payments to be made in lieu of rates) in the same manner as private land for flood management purposes

  • have the Crown and its agencies acknowledge their responsibilities as infrastructure owners, land owners and 'good neighbours'

  • acknowledge that some infrastructure, buildings and other assets are simply located in inappropriate and high-risk floodable areas

  • make the necessary hard decisions on asset relocation

  • provide statutory tools to enable councils to require the relocation or retreat of infrastructure, buildings and other assets from high flood risk areas

  • provide clear policies which persuade individuals to exercise self-responsibility regarding residual flood hazard risk

  • require Crown agencies and other national bodies to contribute to flood avoidance or mitigation measures where they have an adverse impact on those measures or receive benefits from them.

3.1 Steering Group comment

The Steering Group supports the local government position statement in principle, with the following caveats.

  • Balancing private property rights and public interests is complex and will need careful analysis before agreement can be reached on solutions.

  • Further work on potential tools for councils to require the retreat of assets from high-risk areas is needed.

  • All stakeholders, including central government agencies, should be required to reduce their impact on local flood risk equitably. How central government achieves this across the range of agencies affected requires further work.

  • A separate funding mechanism recognising national benefit does not sit comfortably within the funding actions suggested by this report or the wider principles of current funding practices, because there may be duplication. However, this does not preclude applications being made on a case-by-case basis.

5  National Water and Soil Conservation Organisation.