Plan to build houses on flood-prone Napier land not viable, councillor says


An aerial view of the November 2020 flood shows, at the bottom, the extent of flooding on the proposed housing development site. Photo / Peter Scott via RNZ

By Tom Kitchin of RNZ

A plan to build nearly 700 homes on a Napier flood plain is being attacked by a local councillor as making no sense.

The development led by local iwi Ngāti Kahungunu will be in one of the city’s lowest-lying areas and has been fast-tracked by the Government because of the hundreds of jobs and new houses it could bring.

But some say they are forgetting about the risks.

The land is beside the suburb of Maraenui, along Riverbend Rd.

Napier had a huge flood two years ago this month and this area was under water and that was top of mind for regional councillor Neil Kirton.

Hawke's Bay regional councillor Neil Kirton says building houses on this land is not a solution to the housing crisis. Photo / Paul Taylor, File
Hawke’s Bay regional councillor Neil Kirton says building houses on this land is not a solution to the housing crisis. Photo / Paul Taylor, File

“The entire area was inundated with about one and a half to two metres of water that just simply sat for days. It’s simply not viable to be now considering that zone for housing – it makes no sense whatsoever.’’

He said with the tsunami, flood and earthquake risks all converging on Napier, it was the “worst place in the world to build a city”.

“The housing need is dire and yes, that’s granted, but why put those houses in the most obscure and exposed environments that you can think of?

A view of flooding in Napier after heavy rains deluged the region in November 2020. Photo / Supplied, File
A view of flooding in Napier after heavy rains deluged the region in November 2020. Photo / Supplied, File

“The solution doesn’t rest here, the solution rests in the western hills. Get the houses up above the flood zone and make a new start for the city.”

Backing on to the site is McNaughton Pl, a street built about 15 years ago. Resident David Wood knew there was a huge flooding risk over his back fence.

“The infrastructure required here is massive – this is one of the areas that [Napier City] Council does actually use as a flood plain when we have really heavy rain, so they’re going to have to spend massive amounts of money on draining it and making sure it never floods again, and that’s the major sticking point.”

Hawke's Bay regional councillor Neil Kirton says building houses on this land is not a solution to the housing crisis. Photo / Tom Kitchin, RNZ
Hawke’s Bay regional councillor Neil Kirton says building houses on this land is not a solution to the housing crisis. Photo / Tom Kitchin, RNZ

His neighbour Gordon Anderson agreed.

“If we get another flood – like there is occurring in Westport and other places in New Zealand and Australia and they’re going to be more frequent – if we’re hearing about the environmental issues happening – this is just adding to a whole mixture of problems.”

The development was referred to a fast-tracking consent process about a year ago by Environment Minister David Parker as part of an effort to create jobs and housing and help the economy recover from Covid-19.

At the time, the Napier City Council told his ministry the developer did not appear to realise the site was a big flood plain.

Both the city and regional councils were worried about the project’s lack of flood modelling.

But government officials told the minister the massive floods of two years ago were not what the city normally expected and the risks would be manageable.

K3 Kahungunu Property is the main developer. In a statement, chief executive Aayden Clarke said his team was “working with industry experts and consultants ensuring that stormwater management is designed for little to no impact on the surrounding environment”.

Parker told the developers they needed flood hazard and climate change assessments before a panel reviewed the fast-track application.



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