Storm damage cost DOC $28 million in the last five years

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Storm damage costs the Department of Conservation millions of dollars, and repair costs have nearly quadrupled in the past five fiscal years.

Engineers decided that this 147-meter-long flood-damaged bridge on the Heaphy Track could not be repaired.
Photo: Delivered / Department of Conservation

Total storm damage expenses were $28 million for the five fiscal years between 2017 and 2022 on the tracks, cabins and other visitor infrastructure.

That’s compared to $4.8 million spent on storm damage in the four fiscal years between 2013 and 2017.

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DOC’s Heritage and Visitors Director, Tim Bamford, said it is difficult to determine the impact of climate change on costs.

“We would look at very long-term data to accurately attribute damage to climate change,” Bamford said.

“However, the data on DOC’s spending in response to storm damage and urgent inspections … to address visitor safety over the past five years illustrates the impact of changing weather patterns.”

Storm damage to the Great Walks cost $5.6 million in the five fiscal years between 2017 and 2022.

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The average five-year budget for storm damage was $5.6 million between 2017 and 2022, compared to the $1.2 million average between 2013 and 2017.

The department had allocated an average of $3.2 million to a reactive storm budget over the past five fiscal years. In the financial years 2017/2018, 2018/2019 and 2020/2021, less was spent on storm damage.

However, in the 2021/2022 fiscal year, an additional $5 million was allocated to cover the damage caused by Cyclone Dovi.

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In 2019/2020, DOC allocated $13.7 million for a storm recovery program, increasing the budget from the allocated $2.2 million to $15 million.

The Heaphy Track alone accounted for more than $1.8 million, while $1.3 million was spent on the Routeburn Track and $1.2 million was needed for the Milford Track.

Logistics was a huge challenge for the crews who had to repair Milford Track after flooding caused damage in early 2020.

Repairs underway on part of the Milford Track damaged by flooding in early 2020.
Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

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