OPINION – NZ Herald 7 February 2023
Cheryl Adamson, General Manager, Parnell Business Association
Excuse the metaphor, but what we have experienced in the last week reminds me of a very bad bout of diarrhoea, caused by consistently ignoring the obvious signs.
In one small corner of Parnell, we typify a microcosm of selective blindness with regard to risk, as well as experiencing all the silos that operate within the council “family”, all of which make the emergency response that bit more challenging to deal with.
The high-end home decor category has always been a proud attraction for Parnell, and many of our beautiful stores have faced devastating losses since the heavy rain on Friday evening.
Stores along lower St Georges Bay Rd and The Strand had metres of water in their showrooms from the excessive rain, which was exacerbated by passing busses and trucks travelling to and from the Ports of Auckland, whose bow wave, in some cases actually stove in the doors of certain premises.
You can imagine how some of the retailers felt watching, on social media, a bus driving through the flood, returning from the cancelled Elton John concert, with passengers almost gloating at the effect of waves that literally set couches and furniture floating.
The fact that there was no early emergency response and no roads closed to mitigate some of the damage is an issue we are all desperately seeking to understand.
Yes, the amount of rain was unprecedented, but this exact area has been flooded before, most recently in March last year. And yes, there is a Flood Plains Map on the council website, which in Parnell pretty much mirrors the site of the damage.
So why then, have the council “family” abdicated their responsibility when it comes to core services in vulnerable areas? The most consistent complaint I have received from most of the businesses involved is that they have often complained to council to come and clean the drains, which most often has not been adequately attended to.
Mike Jennings from The Paddington shared his concern with me. “It’s been an issue here for the eight years we have owned the business. The trees nearby generate so much leaf-fall, that it always finds its way to the drain outside the front door of the pub and then blocks. Our team sweep the drain at these times and try to keep it clear.
“We have contacted AT several times over the years and asked that the roads be swept at a more appropriate time or if the drain can be unblocked. On occasion, they have sent extra street sweepers around, but the frustrating point is that they come around in the afternoon when all the car parks are full and the trucks never get anywhere near the curb to sweep up the leaves. Other times a team of people will visit and pull a few leaves from the drain and then email us with a picture of an unblocked drain. Not that helpful … We’ve since given up trying to chase AT on this issue, it falls on deaf ears.”
Some landowners have even said they have complaints to Watercare dating back several years about a fully collapsed pipe below the street, which their own plumber had discovered. In the last week this resulted in a large volume of wastewater backing up the floor gully traps and flooding a restaurant … twice – this should never have happened.
This brings me to the silos. In the past few days and before the second rainfall, I attempted to get the debris off the road and the drains cleaned up, only to find that Auckland Council deal with “some” roads and Auckland Transport deal with “other” roads – in the same area. Why?
And to further complicate matters, The Strand is a very poor extension of the SH16, so falls into a kind of no-man’s land, which needed dual reporting and help from Auckland Transport.
It should not be this hard. Considering we have an awful lot of far deeper problems to face. It is necessary for Auckland to face up to all our infrastructure failings and embark on perhaps a slightly alternative treatment, but one that is planned and measured and attacks the compacted waste in our city, from each and every crevice.
Using the metaphor, it is most important to realise that while there may be different organs that are essential to bodily function, we only have one colon, and operating in egotistical silos will not get the job done.
Link to NZ Herald article here
Header Image – Sandbagging on The Strand in Parnell as heavy rain hits Auckland causing widespread flooding. Photo / Dean Purcell
In article image – Auckland flooding looking at Beach Rd at the bottom of Parnell and towards the Auckland Domain. Photo / Tom McCondach