Resilient rivers

flood work

Between 2021 and 2023 more than $24 million will be spent in Waitaha Canterbury on a programme of flood protection projects thanks to central government’s climate resilience fund and local funding.

These projects are part of the Resilient River Communities programme which will see 55 projects completed nationwide by 2023 with a total of $312 million spent.

Flooding is the number one, commonly occurring natural hazard in Aotearoa.

We manage 59 river control and drainage schemes from Kaikōura to Waitaki, with a total asset value of $691 million, higher than any other region in New Zealand.

This includes 650 km of stopbanks, and nearly 700 km of drains.

The current schemes help communities build resilience to flood events providing safety and security to productive land and protecting families, businesses, and critical infrastructure.

We can define resilience broadly in terms of the capacity of people and places to plan for, protect, respond to, and recover from flooding arising from changes in our climate. 

Taking action to adapt to climate change

Looking ahead, climate change is expected to cause more frequent and severe weather events which will increasingly impact the many people who live and work on our populated floodplains.

The strategic flood protection projects funded through this program are an opportunity to accelerate regional flood management, forming an intergenerational legacy that will benefit Cantabrians for years to come.

Co-investing with central government offers the opportunity to kick-start projects that would have otherwise taken decades to fund through the current rating districts and undertake works to protect communities from changes that we know are coming.

Climate change is a major factor that is integrated across all aspects of operational decision-making. With the expectation of more climate change-induced flood events, we are reviewing how our river management and flood protection schemes operate.

Project funding

In December 2020 we confirmed $15.5 million in funding from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s Kānoa – Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit (REDIU) towards a combined project value of $24.2 million in a co-funding arrangement.

Through this programme, Kānoa-REDIU will contribute 64 per cent of the cost of each project as a grant. The remaining 36 per cent will be co-funded by Environment Canterbury through a combination of contributions from partners, operational funding and rates.

The programme has a strong dual purpose of supporting the Canterbury COVID-19 recovery by generating employment for local contractors and workers to boost the regional economy, as well as providing climate change resilience and transformational opportunities for communities across the region

All projects must be completed by 31 December 2023.

Achieving environmental outcomes

In addition to the benefits of flood protection, we now have a rare transformational opportunity, particularly with respect to supporting the unique character of our braided rivers.

Braided rivers are a precious and iconic part of the Canterbury environment. As a result of the introduction and invasion of weeds, predators, and human activities, braided rivers and their bird species, plants, native fish and insects are under threat. 

Taking a holistic approach to the health and vitality of our rivers is critical. By engaging with communities and partnering with mana whenua and other stakeholder groups we can accelerate the regeneration of the natural environment and lead climate change resilience for the Canterbury region.

These initiatives strongly support our Strategic Directions (PDF File, 399.02 KB), enable a rapid start of valuable Braided River Revival/ Whakahaumanu Ngā Awa ā Pākihi works and will be a significant catalyst of positive change for current and future generations.

Find out more about what we do to protect Canterbury from flooding