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Raise banks but no path

Resource consent for a major upgrading of the Waipaoa River stopbanks has been granted by an independent commissioner — but a further application to allow for building a cycleway on top of the stopbanks has been declined.

In a reserved decision, independent commissioner Greg Hill says he accepts that upgrading of the flood protection scheme is critically important to the Gisborne region.

“The proposed upgrade to the existing stopbanks will improve resilience against flood events and account for climate change.

“Granting this consent will enable the scheme to better protect the 10,000 hectares of Gisborne’s highly- productive land, as well as the urban areas of Gisborne city, Makaraka and Ormond.”

But Mr Hill says the cycleway application was not sufficiently developed to fully understand the proposal. Seeking consent later would allow time for discussions with landowners and potentially-affected parties.

He accepted that the cycleway per se was likely to be an appropriate activity and, as set out, would have a range of positive social and economic benefits.

“However, the proposal as advanced by the applicant is, in my view, more akin to a general concept — with most of the detail to be developed and resolved post-consent,” the decision says.

While the council owns most of the land on which the stopbanks are located, significant portions are privately owned. While there is no limitation on granting consent, without landowner approval any consent could not be exercised.

Given the land tenure situation and the amount of land not owned by the council, it is not possible to know the actual extent of the proposed cycleway/walkway, Mr Hill says.

The effects could not be determined and mitigated until the actual extent of the possible cycleway/walkway is known.

The applicant sought a construction period of 13 years. While it was accepted the applicant had offered a five-year consent lapse period for the cycleway consent, given the construction period the cycleway/walkway would be some years away.

In his view, consent should be sought once a cycleway network plan has been completed and construction of the stopbanks is nearer completion. This would provide greater certainty to those potentially affected by the cycleway/walkway.

For reasons set out in the decision, in terms of the sustainable management purpose of the Resource Management Act, it was more appropriate in this instance to refuse rather than grant consent for the cycleway, he says.

Commissioner heard 26 submissions, mainly on cyclewayAt the hearing, the council sought consent for upgrading the Waipaoa River Flood Control Scheme based on the 2090 climate change predictions that would allow for a 100-year storm flood.

The original application sought to raise the stopbanks by between 0.6 and 0.9m.

A revised application raised the upper limit to 1.78 metres.

It included a bypass at Ormond, a major realignment at Mullooly’s Bend and increasing the earth material required from 750,000 cubic metres to 1.4 million.

There were 26 submissions in response to the council’s applications, heard on September 19.

The proposed cycleway was the main issue raised by submissions, both for and against.

The Long-Term Plan has $16.3 million allocated in the budget for upgrading the Waipaoa River flood control scheme, although it is now estimated that the total cost of the project will be $30m-$35m.

These figures do not include any funding for the cycleway, which the council has said would cost an additional $2m-$3m.

Drone view over Waiapoa River from Jordan Perry.