Challenges around climate change, increased flooding and infrastructure affordability will be under the spotlight at a two-day Water New Zealand Stormwater Conference which gets underway this morning in Ōtautahi Christchurch (18-19 May).
Water New Zealand chief executive, Gillian Blythe says there is a need for well-informed conversations with communities about potential flooding risks and the costs of reducing those risks.
She says it’s essential that councils and utilities understand the current state of their stormwater systems because knowledge gaps will limit the ability of communities to make well-informed decisions.
"Much of Aotearoa New Zealand’s population is located near the coast or on floodplains and so is directly exposed to climate change risks.
"If systems are not designed with climate change in mind, there will be more failures and decreases in levels of service over the coming decades.
"While adapting stormwater networks to climate change will be challenging and complex, there is an opportunity to redesign for resilience as systems are replaced."
However, she says investment in our stormwater networks has too often not been given the priority needed to ensure this longer-term protection.
Water New Zealand’s comparative benchmarking tool, the National Performance Review shows that in 2020, participants invested less than a third on stormwater networks than on either drinking water supply or wastewater networks.
"Utilities that are spending less than depreciation on renewing stormwater assets are very likely to be under-investing in maintenance."
This year’s conference brings together industry leaders from around the country and those working across sector.
Keynote speakers include Local Government Minister, Nanaia Mahuta, and Professor Te Maire Tau, Chair, Te Kura Taka Pini, Ngāi Tahu Freshwater Management, Ngāi Tahu.
Tower insurance chief executive, Blair Turnbull will outline insurance flood risk tools and the cost of weather events and flooding to communities.
Taumata Arowai chief executive, Bill Bayfield will discuss how the new regulatory environment will impact on stormwater utilities.
The Stormwater Conference precedes Water New Zealand’s Conference and Expo which will be held next week in Kirikiriroa Hamilton (25-26 May).