Mayor and Prime Minister Central Otago Mayor Malcolm Macpherson, Prime Minister Helen Clark, Otago Regional Council Chairman Duncan Butcher, walking the crest of the Alexandra flood protection scheme (Alexandra Bridge in background)

Commissioning the Alexandra Flood Protection Scheme

21 March 2002

Here's the Mayor's speech:

"Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, members of parliament, members of the official party, ladies and gentlemen (and pupils of Alexandra schools)

It's my pleasure to welcome you all to Central Otago, and to Alexandra, on what is a very special day for us.

Two years and about four months ago this area was well under water.

What happened after that flood, the biggest we have ever had, is a remarkable story. It's a story with many important lessons; for us, and for other communities which face similar disasters.

I'm going to spend a few moments outlining what those lessons are.

First, and this is the most important lesson, we reacted quickly, and we reacted together. Within days of the flood we had an action plan that had received widespread community support. Much more important, we had a credible, capable, government-funded person to help us - Alex Adams. Good to see Alex here today!

The key contributors to that fast start were the local MP, Gavan Herlihy, also here today, who focused the right people in Wellington on our problem, and on finding a solution.

And the Flood Action Group, lead by Bob Kilgour, with Laurence O'Connell, John Nelson and Stan Randle in the front row, also played a large part.

Second, we set a very fast pace. By June the Alexandra Community Board, led by Daphne Hull, had a comprehensive flood protection and economic recovery plan in front of the government. Not everyone was comfortable with the speed of that process, but we did it. Thanks are due to Contact Energy, The Regional Council, the Government and the Community Trust of Otago for funding the scoping work done by Optimx, which included an extensive consultation process.

Third, the Adams report, the Optimx Report and the solid engineering work done by Montgomery Watson Harza for the Otago Regional Council meant that we had a very strong case. Mayor Bill McIntosh, Board Chair Daphne Hull, Chief executive Steve Green and Russell Ibbotson took our evidence to Wellington, and the Prime Minister and her officials were generous with their time, and they listened carefully.

From that came the decision to commit $21.6m to a flood protection and amenity programme. When he came down to make the announcement, the Deputy Prime Minister said 'This is as good as it gets.' And he was right - the combination of a focused, committed and united community, and a willing and sympathetic government, is about as good as it gets.

This community is in much better heart today than it was two years ago. Not just because of the flood protection scheme - these are very exciting times in Central Otago - but primarily because the decision to fund the scheme was the start of a turn-around. It was a strong signal that we could and would solve our flooding problem. We haven't looked back since.

We have this government, and particularly the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, to thank for that. On behalf of the people of Central Otago I want to formally thank them both. We are very pleased you could both be here today. We understand and appreciate the part you have both played in what is universally seen as a great outcome.

It's now my pleasure to hand over to the Chairman of the Otago Regional Council, Duncan Butcher

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