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Problems not of his making - who pays?

By Pauline Stewart.

Kevin Roger’s lives with his wife Rose on the west side of Highway 25, very close to the Tohetea Bridge. Some of the Tohetea stream runs across his property. Behind his land is the recent subdivision development and a consent application has gone in from the developer for 31 more house lots. “With every new home established there is more storm water (water from a roof or drain),” says Kevin. He has a huge problem trying to stem the effects of erosion and flooding despite years of benching his side of the stream to try and manage more water flow which is attributed to the extra rainfall and every extra house built.

The other side of the stream is not benched. “Nothing has been done to curb erosion. There are worrying problems with slash and logs from previous storms not being cleared away.” There were large amounts of debris everywhere across from Kevin’s farmlet. They lie haphazardly, waiting to gouge out more disaster with the next storm on both sides of the stream. Kevin wants someone with authority and knowledge to do something about this. He has complained but to no avail.

This is Kevin and Rose’s dream retirement property. Kevin has worked very hard all his life. “I have run a farm and a QE11 property. I have good knowledge of managing ground water. I put the banks on my side back to 45degrees because the water could not get away.” Kevin and Rose really thought this could be an ideal retirement as they both enjoy farming and outdoor life. But life under the threat of flooding and erosion when Kevin feels that ‘common sense, planning ahead and decisive action could avoid most of it,’ is very stressful.

Kevin walks a little further down towards Tohetea Bridge and points to the nearby main communications line that houses most of the communications from Whitianga to all places north. It crosses from his side of the stream to the other side and hangs very low over the stream. It has been underwater twice, recently. When one looks at the amount of debris which will be washed into the stream in the next heavy rainfall, then there is cause to think the line will be damaged severely. “We have undercutting and erosion and there are places where the bank is collapsing. Other places where the sides are gouged out are building up with silt. This silt ends up out in the Bay. That silt should stay on the land. The rocks placed under the stream where the bridge is are slowly being washed away and then nothing lies there to stop erosion. There are so many things not working and I keep working to try and improve the safety features against erosion and flooding, but my property relates very closely to the other side of the stream and there is no care and little work being done there.”

“Half of my property is rural, and the other half is urban,” says Kevin. “That means there are two different sets of rules for what I can do and what I can’t do. There are three acres and two houses, and it is a property that can be re-zoned as all urban. I was told by the Council that it would be six months to organise the change of zoning. That’s when we first came here, and I have done all the right things. But It’s been seven years and we’re still waiting.”

Kevin is aware of the report from Waka Kotahi on June 11 where it states that Tohetea Bridge needs replacing with a two-lane bridge and needs lifting. It also states they have requested funding. Kevin presumes this is from central government. “When they built the footbridge across the stream parallel to the road, it was a disappointing surprise to see that the footbridge was erected at the same height as the road level which means when the bridge floods so does the footbridge stopping foot traffic as well as the vehicle traffic.”

Kevin wants some action, and he is very clear that someone needs to pay the cost of continuing damage to his property due to neglect and inaction on the other side of the stream that negatively affects his land to a huge extent. “The problems extends to the main road, all the way to the bridge,” says Kevin. Wharehako does not get its fair share of services and practical decision making. “It’s not just the last storms that have caused these problems. They have been recurring for many years. This is incompetence - rules preventing common sense.”

We love the Coromandel. My father would travel three months at a time all across the North Island painting the scenes that touched his heart. Some of his paintings hang in the national gallery; some in the Wellington Gallery. He had such an eye for beauty and conserving the environment. I am no artist,” says Kevin pointing to the beautiful well aligned display of some of his Father’s paintings. “But I am an artist with the land, and I want to work with the Council and Waikato Regional Council to fix up the problems, some of which their inaction has caused. There’s still time.

Caption: Kevin Rogers takes a walk on his property along the Tohetea Stream.


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