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Hikutaia stopbank work due for completion

Work to complete the last length of stopbank within the critical Waihou Valley Scheme is due to get underway on Monday 10 March, as Environment Waikato moves to finish the scheme that protects properties beside the Hikutaia River in the Thames-Coromandel district.

The earth and timber stopbank, which is approximately 600-millimetre high, is due to run through two adjoining properties belonging to Hikutaia couple Jeremy and Nicola Marshall, who have long argued the regional council has not followed the correct procedure to build the stopbank. They also argue they have not been offered adequate compensation.

But police have confirmed Environment Waikato has followed the correct process and has the legal power to carry out the work. The regional council has agreed the Marshalls are entitled to compensation based on any loss of property value as a result of the compulsory work.

The council’s river and catchment services operations manager Guy Russell said: “We are engaging a valuer to assess the properties’ value before and after the work, which is expected to take several weeks.”

But Mr Russell said the stopbank could potentially increase the combined value of the two properties. He said an ordinary dwelling is unlikely to be allowed to be built on the second property as it did not have adequate flood protection.

“We now want to get on with this relatively minor piece of work that will build the last length of stopbank in the Waihou Valley Scheme which is critical for providing flood protection to the Hauraki Plains and low lying land along the Waihou and its tributaries,” said Mr Russell.

“This stopbank is designed to not only protect the Marshalls’ properties from floods up to a 50 year standard – it will also protect dozens of others all the way down to the Waihou River, as well as State Highway 26 at Hikutaia.”

Mr Russell said that Environment Waikato was completely clear that it had the power and rights to do the work without the Marshalls’ permission under the Soil Conservation and Rivers Control Act 1941.

“We never like having to complete work in such circumstances and this is the first time in construction of the entire Waihou Valley Scheme that this circumstance has occurred. We would prefer to work with the Marshalls over access and compensation issues but this flood protection work is too important for us to leave any longer.”

Mr Russell said he was happy to have further discussions with the Marshalls at any stage but that arguments against the necessity for the work, and Environment Waikato’s powers to carry it out, had now been exhausted.

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