128 days ago

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2 hours ago

February flood erosion cost mounts

Nicole Mathewson Reporter from The Press

From local democracy reporter Brendon McMahon:

A "lot of potential work" is seen necessary to repair and improve stopbanks on the Wanganui River flats near Harihari.

The Wanganui River badly damaged rockwalls and eroded farmland during the February flood which also struck Westport.

Already a new protection wall less than 0.5-kilometres long has been built after a huge chunk of farmland on the true right bank of the Wanganui was washed away.

The West Coast Regional Council heard at its May meeting that some of the urgent work was approved by the end of April as an emergency procurement, by the previous director of operations Randal Beal.

The emergency procurement is allowed under council's delegations manual due to natural disasters.

A report to the meeting said verbal quotes were to be confirmed and "availability to start" was the selection criteria.

"Rock lining the wall is a capital cost ... of approximately $100,000 to the adjoining landowners.''

Council engineer James Bell had met with affected landowners from the Wanganui rating district who had confirmed the plan to proceed.

The work had been awarded to Arnold Contracting with onsite stockpiles of rock to be used.

Cr Debra Magner said she had visited the area with regional council staff.

There were two pieces of work to be done, one of which was already under way. The other work would be reliant on rating district approval.

"There's going to be quite a lot of potential work on the Wanganui," Magner said.

Chief executive Heather Mabin said the issue facing the Wanganui rating district linked to a broader issue of how to pay.

From the February flood alone, $326,000 had been spent on emergency works.

"We are very aware that there needs to be a national plan."

1 day ago

Regional council posts near $17m surplus in ‘turbulent year’

Nicole Mathewson Reporter from The Press

From local democracy reporter Brendon McMahon:

The West Coast Regional Council has posted "an unexpectedly large" surplus of $16.6 million in its delayed 2020-21 annual report.

The draft, cleared by Audit NZ, will be tabled on Tuesday at the audit and risk committee meeting, and is expected to be formally adopted next month.

The report is late due to Covid-related constraints on the auditing process. The reporting time was relaxed nationally through a law change for a large number of affected local authorities.

Chairman Allan Birchfield described 2020-21 as a "turbulent year" as the long-term impacts of Covid were felt throughout the region.

Revenue was greater than budgeted by $17.4m, mainly due to the transfer of the Greymouth floodwall assets from the Grey District Council to the regional council. The floodwall has since been valued at $15.6m.

The addition of the floodwall increased the infrastructure asset base to $103.7m, and dominated the council's balance sheet.

Subsidies and grants were $1.1m more than budgeted because of higher than expected funding from the Government for infrastructure projects.

Investment income was up $679,000 because of better than expected returns on investments.

Expenditure was up $809,000, mainly due to unforeseen spending on infrastructure. In particular, $452,000 was spent on modelling for the Westport flood warning forecast, part of the requirements for the proposed flood protection scheme.

In the year to June 30 last year, part-year remuneration for then chief executive Vin Smith totalled $168,115 (2019-20 it was $255,729).

Mr Smith left during July 2021, and therefore any related severance pay will not be disclosed until next year's annual plan.

Total costs for the council's 73 staff was $6.5m (75 staff and $5.8m the previous year).

Elected representative costs were $409,454 (2019-2020 $372,718).

Three staff members earned between $160,000 and $280,000. The council also had eight staff receiving between $100,000 and $159,999; the previous year it had six in that pay bracket.

Current chief executive Heather Mabin said 'governance' costs of $642,152 were over-budget by $220,149.

Ms Mabin said that reflected increased costs of finalising the 10-year long-term plan.

The increased governance cost was predominantly audit fees, she said.

Birchfield said the council was successful in receiving $900,000 in 2020-21 to fund flood resilience projects in the Hokitika, Greymouth and Westport rating districts.

1 day ago

Are you obsessed with your houseplants? Enter our Houseplant Hero competition!

Mei Leng Wong Reporter from NZ Gardener & Get Growing

The hunt is officially on for New Zealand's best collection of houseplants
. Which means you could be 2022 Houseplant Hero. There’s some great prizes to be won! To enter, tell us in writing (no more than 500 words) what potted plants you have, the time you put into caring for them, and what you love about them. Send us up to five photos of your indoor plant displays. Email mailbox@nzgardener.co.nz. Meanwhile, here's last year's winner Alyce Read, from Nelson.