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By ROBYN BRISTOW

Hurunui Earthquake Recovery manager Paul Wylie has warned that due to financial pressures, a minimalistic approach to recovery could lead to a “new normal”.

He says without investment measures that led to a “real” long term recovery for all, some parts of the district might recover and prosper while others might “fail to recover and stagnate”.

“No-one wants the recovery process to become a political or financial monster. However achieving optimal long term recovery will call for some courage,” says Mr Wylie in a report to council as he handed over the recovery phase of the Hurunui-Kaikoura earthquake event to the Hurunui District council.

He said the district’s prime industry is agriculture and this must be recognised as being the foundation of the district’s success in approaching long term recovery.

Land damage from the quake and climate change symptoms such as the recent “devastating drought”, had led to the farming community looking for assistance in developing more new crops and activities.

The new $5 million Earthquake Recovery Fund would provide two new funding support mechanisms for quake struck farmers and growers and every endeavour should be made to ensure it was fully taken up and applied to the maximum extent possible within the Hurunui.

“Where any initiatives involve council consents or approvals, council should act as an enabler within the rules, rather than an enforcer of rules,” Mr Wylie says.

The council had signalled investing in the Hurunui Water Project in its annual plan at a time when sustainable water use is expected to be a controversial topic in the future.

“Perhaps the only certainty is that there will be changes. If diversification is the future for agriculture and horticulture in the district, the council will need to commit itself to actively engage in the establishment of new rules that not only protect a precious natural resource for the future, but also enables productive enterprise for residents.”

Mr Wylie urged investigation into connectivity throughout the district through mobile phones and the internet and said a package of measures to increase tourism could make a significant difference and drive a long term recovery alongside more “diversified agriculture”.

“As part of the recovery plan the council should continue to work with neighbouring councils to ensure connections are viable and to continue to lobby government and NZTA to help bring the Coastal Pacific Cycle Trail into being.

He also strongly recommended some council staff resources be committed to support the Hurunui Cycle trail and the Hanmer Springs to Waiau Mountain Bike Trail.

He also urged the council and the Hurunui Trails Trust to join forces with other stakeholders to lobby government and the Department of Conservation to guarantee the future of the St James cycle Trail.

Identifying legal areas for freedom camping, ensuring free Wi-Fi sites continued to be made available throughout the district and resolving the status of the Inland Road and “perhaps” recognising it should return to it’s former status as state highway 70 would remove the present contingent financial risk.

Mr Wylie also recommended the council carefully review the nature and level of insurance cover and said while community facilities were a complex issue, with virtually all suffering some damage in Waiau and most facing a “decidedly uncertain future”, fixing them was going to be beyond the capabilities of some.

He suggested the council keep a watching brief and offer assistance to explore options where appropriate and to continue with community consultations to identify the realistic aims of each and where they wanted to be in 2050, the council’s contribution to these aims, and the means of funding relevant council expenditure in order that the 2050 programme informed the council’s new 2018-2028 Long Term Plan.

“On the positive side, much of the district’s infrastructure such as roads, bridges and reticulation have been upgraded and enhanced as part of the repair and replacement programme. This would have been beyond the resources of the council in normal circumstances and there will be long term benefits to the district.

“On the negative side the financial shortfall will increase council’s debt at a time when the council has been seeking to get debt levels down in anticipation of a water treatment upgrade programme. Research also indicates that the psychosocial effects and costs will linger for some years,” Mr Wylie said.