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Published: 2007-06-15 00:00:00

Drains and flood schemes may not be sexy, but they’re essential.

That was the message from Environment Waikato Catchment Services Committee chair Andra Neeley at the committee’s meeting in Hamilton recently.

Environment Waikato manages about $500 million worth of flood protection, river management and catchment management assets, protecting $15 billion worth of property.

“We live in an extremely manmade and altered region,” Cr Neeley said.

“Currently the council manages some 2,100,000 hectares or 85 per cent of the region (nine per cent of New Zealand) under its catchment management, land draingage and flood protection schemes, which much of the region’s productivity is dependent on.

“However, because the infrastructure’s there and it’s always been there, people often don’t realise how essential it is. If it wasn’t for the stop banks, flood gates and pump stations we manage, large areas of our region would be underwater for months of the year and would not be dry enough to live and farm on.

“The Hauraki Plains are a perfect example. They boast some of New Zealand’s richest soil and most productive agricultural land, but without flood protection and drainage schemes, much of this land simply could not be farmed.”

Environment Waikato’s river and catchment services group manger Scott Fowlds told the Catchment Service Committee at least 167,000 hectares of land – or seven per cent of the Waikato region – was on flood plains and at direct risk from flooding. This area included many existing communities, extensive farmland, state highways and other infrastructure.

The ongoing maintenance of Environment Waikato’s river and catchment management schemes is paid for by targeted rates.