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Help for private property drainage upgrades a curly one for council

Opinion Piece

Gisborne District Council has a challenge to find a fair and equitable way of ensuring upgrades needed on private property, to address the problem of stormwater overloading of the city’s wastewater system, are done in a timely manner.

The council has a stated aim of reducing the number of wastewater overflows into city rivers to no more than one every two years — a big reduction on the 40 experienced in the past 10 years, four of them this winter.

An independent review of the DrainWise programme said the greatest gain towards meeting its objective will come from reducing flooding on private property, and that should be its major focus.

Nobody would probably argue with that, although there is frustration that plans to address this problem go back many years. It is also clear that a major priority for the community now is stopping these overflows.

The curly question, however, is how costs should be shared.

A key paragraph in a report to the Future Tairawhiti committee last week said: “The households most affected are not necessarily the exacerbators of the problem. Rather they are at the receiving end of land development and drainage decisions.”

This clearly puts an onus on the council, and through that the ratepayers, to contribute to work that will be done on private properties.

Eastland Community Trust has declined in the past to help fund core council infrastructure, although there are murmurs the council will ask it to reconsider.

There is another complication in the fact that Kaiti, where average incomes are among the lowest, is the worst affected area.

There are clear signs councillors want to reach a fair and equitable solution to help meet the cost for something that is clearly in the public good. But it is already under intense financial pressure.

The council decided to have staff prepare a white paper to help it and the community arrive at an agreed way or ways to assist and incentivise the work. Due next month, it will be closely scrutinised by both councillors and the public.