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Onetere Drive residents have been treated shabbily by WDC
Published: 08 Sep 2016

That is the view of Whanganui District Councillor Rob Vinsen.

Five residential properties in Onetere Drive have been flooded above floor level three times over the last nine years, and last years  major event meant that some were housed in a caravan for six months before they could return to their devastated homes.

The residents first approached Council in 2006 and asked to widen the culvert under Wikitoria Rd that they considered was the cause of their flooding.

In 2009 Council commissioned Opus to provide a report, and this report concluded that the culvert was a significant cause of the flooding. Opus recommended a series of steps for Council to take to alleviate the problem the final step being  to replace the triple culvert on Wikitoria Rd with a much larger box culvert.

But it never happened, as Council officers  did not  include the work in the necessary forward planning. They said that the culvert was not the cause, and that widening the culvert would make no difference to the flooding problems. Council Infrastructure Manager, Mark Hughes, said last year  “In my view, Council has met all its obligations – and the residents need to come to terms with the fact that they live in a floodplain”

But the residents didn’t give up,  and they commissioned an independent drainage engineer, Mr John Philpot,  to assess the issue.

Mr Philpot also agreed with the earlier Opus Report, that the culvert was acting as a dam, and recommended the same solution as Opus.

The affected residents  came back to Council yet again last  November with Mr Philpot’s report and a petition requesting Council to fix the problem.

Council’s response was to commission yet another report,, this time by Horizons, and the residents were told to await the presentation of this report.

As the anniversary of last years catastrophic event came around again, the residents’ fears  and frustration was at breaking  point.

Finally, in July, Council received the new report. It concluded that the triple culvert was a “major” contributor to the flooding in Onetere Drive, and recommended six options for dealing with it.

There were three options considered  :

1/  A stopbank on the edge of the Awarua Stream, cost approx $75,000

2/  The replacement of the triple culvert with a 3m x 2m Box Culvert , cost approx $600,000

3/  An overbridge on Wikitoria Rd – cost approx $1m.

Council resolved to ask the residents for their preferred option  and organised another meeting.

The residents  preference was either of the bridge or culvert options , however they were shocked  when Council officers recommended that the bridge option go forward to the 2018 – 2028 Ten Year Plan. They  saw this  as simply pushing the fixing of their problem out to a new council to deal with, and a timeline anytime up to 2028.

Fortunately, Council did not resolve to do this, however  Council  has  called for yet another  report now.  The stopbank option is to be evaluated by officers.

Residents had considered this option , of course, but rejected it as it doesn’t address the identified problem  - that the culvert will still cause a blockage and overflow the road.

Cr Vinsen said “ I voted in favour of this resolution just to keep the matter alive.,  I believe that it will become obvious that  stopbanking is not a solution – it creates problems for other properties upstream. It is far better to put a new culvert in and fix the matter once and for all. This devastating  flooding is preventable – computer modelling of flood levels show that if the culvert was upgraded or the bridge was in place, last Junes flood event would not have been above floor level in Onetere Drive. Some Councillors and officers have introduced arguments about levels of service and priorities, in my opinion that is just diverting the responsibility. If the flooding of Anzac Pde was preventable by simply enlarging a culvert it would have been done long ago.

So the nine year saga just goes on for the residents without resolution, but Cr Vinsen  said that he hopes that there will be more support for their plight from the next council. “

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