Council bids for $32.8m funding

The West Coast Regional Council has put in a bid for $32.8million from the Government’s economic recovery infrastructure fund for flood protection work.

The projects include $19.8million for a long-term solution for Franz Josef Glacier, $8million for a flood warning system and stopbanks for Westport, $2.58million to extend Greymouth’s floodwall and $2.5million for an extension of the Hokitika seawall and river stopbanks.

All of the projects were pretty much ready to go, council chief executive Mike Meehan said.

“With the exception of Westport we did all the planning last year, when we applied to the provincial growth fund but they didn’t quite meet the criteria.

“These are all needed — they’re not ‘nice-to-haves’; they’re supported by all the councils and they would deliver real benefits to the community,” Mr Meehan said.

The Westport stopbank project was the only one the council did not yet have consents for.

“The Westport work is a bit less straightforward because the town is bordered by two rivers [Buller and Orowaiti] and the consenting work is more complex, but there is a heck of a lot of farmland that needs protection there … and people’s homes and businesses.”

Councils around the country had asked for a total of $100billion in response to calls by the Government for infrastructure proposals that would aid economic recovery and create jobs post-Covid-19.

“The Government will have to evaluate all these and prioritise them — it’s a huge job but I think we stand a good chance of success.”

While local government critics had been urging councils to cut rates and staff, the irony was that, if projects were approved, councils like the West Coast Regional Council would need to take on more staff to run them, he said.

The council has also submitted several environmental projects for funding, following a pitch by the Department of Conservation for $1billion for conservation projects estimated to create 7000 jobs.

The Government was due to sign off on its budget by May 14, and the council was hoping to hear then if the West Coast projects had been approved, Mr Meehan said.