Recent storms caused $3.8 million damage in Thames Coromandel

Recent storms caused $3.3 million damage to local roads and $0.5 million damage to local coastal assets.  The effects of climate change are starting to bite.

Three storm events in June 2017, June 2018, and July 2018 are estimated to cost $3.3 million for repairs and reinstatement of local roads (not including State Highways) according to a report presented to TCDC on 18 September. 

We will all pay for these repairs as taxpayers, but after deduction of the NZTA subsidy, local TCDC ratepayers will have to find an additional $1.2 million of unbudgeted funds to cover these roading costs.

In addition, there was damage caused to a number of coastal and community facility assets because  “the extreme coastal weather conditions around the Peninsula in July exacerbated coastal erosion and inundation risk areas which have already been tested during the January 2018 storm event”.  The estimated cost of these repairs is $0.5 million.

The roads affected are all local and do not include the massive costs required to repair and reinstate the Thames Coast State Highway which is the responsibility of NZTA.  The damaged local roads are mostly in isolated areas including Colville, Port Jackson, Te Kouma, Neavesville, Blackjack Road.

As these costs continue to ramp up with more intense and long-lasting rain events and more damaging storm surges on the coast due to climate change, how long will it be before TCDC will have to consider withdrawing services?  

Already there is advice being circulated by Local Government New Zealand about whether councils have the legal right to discontinue maintenance of local roads.  The answer seems to be – yes they can.

“A local authority has no statutory obligation to repair roads. As such, a local authority has discretion to decide not to undertake repair or remedial works on a public road or bridge because of climate change impacts”

These very large costs from just three recent storm events emphasise the scale of the problem for local authorities when trying to protect their infrastructure from climate change effects. 

“New Zealand’s local government sector stands on the front line in the fight against climate change, according to the initial findings of a new report, which shows that billions of dollars of roading, water, and public transport infrastructure are at risk from as little as a half a metre sea level rise.

The research, currently underway by Local Government New Zealand with engineering and environment consultancy Tonkin + Taylor, has so far revealed that billions of dollars of local government infrastructure and assets at risk from sea level rise, and that the impacts will be most significant for water infrastructure and roads.