Westland Mayor stands by decision to break rules to build stopbank

News 05/04/2019

Westland Mayor Bruce Smith is standing by his decision to build a stopbank without following due process.

The Auditor General said in an inquiry into the bank it had "major concerns" about the council's decision-making process, the scope of the work done and the involvement of Smith and councillor Durham Havill.

But Smith told The AM Show he's not bothered by the naysayers because the stopbank saved property in recent flooding.

If we'd gone through the correct process the right thing wouldn't have been done.

"We'd have lost the Kids Care building, the school, the Top 10 [holiday park] and the substation for Franz Josef and we may have lost lives, which we came close to losing in 2016."

The Waiho River breached its banks in March 2016, forcing the evacuation of 180 people and forcing a boil water notice for the area.

Flooding has caused chaos since, but it peaked in late March of this year when an entire bridge was washed down the Waiho River.

An elderly woman is believed to have died in the flooding, apparently swept away in the flood water.

Less people were evacuated this time though, and there was less damage to property. Smith said this was thanks to the bank being in place.

We're all judged on our actions or our inactions and I can sleep at night.

But there's debate on what to do now, with local MP Damien O'Connor saying continuing to protect against the river flooding is becoming untenable.

O'Connor, the MP for the West Coast, told Morning Report the river was one of the most dynamic in the world.

"The recent report by Tim Davies [natural hazards scientist] pointed out the fact that you can't sustain the current management system that they have there to just put stopbanks up and up and up."

Smith said he thinks the bank should be rebuilt.

"Any person knows that if they build beside a river, at some stage in their lives, they'll be dealing with an erosion problem. It's how it works... we react, we've got to protect our people," he told Morning Report.

Smith has in the past told Stuff he is "unsure" about whether human activities contribute to climate change.

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Katie Fitzgerald