Nobody will be forced from their homes in plans to buy up properties in South Dunedin on a voluntary basis. The initial cost is based on buying 65 properties a year.
If the scheme is approved, it could mean the council starts buying property as early as next July.
Properties will be bought by the council on the open market over decades to enable the South Dunedin climate change adaption strategy, now under development.
South Dunedin Future Programme manager, Jonathan Rowe, says the strategic property acquisition idea was sparked by conversations with the community.
The wider South Dunedin basin was swamped by floodwaters in 2015 and is at risk from climate change and rising groundwater.
Rowe, says the area - home to 13,000 people - is facing a complex web of issues.
"We've got a whole lot of challenges in South Dunedin, mostly around water - rising groundwater, sea level rise, increased rainfall events - they're the sort of challenges we're going to be facing in the future. So what we've been looking at is how do we tackle a challenge of that complexity," he says.
“We’ve talked a lot to the community. We’ve heard people want to stay in South Dunedin, they’re worried about their home and community being ‘red-stickered’ or ‘red-zoned’, and they want some certainty,” he says.
“This approach could help South Dunedin get ahead of the problem, be more resilient, provide certainty and reassurance to the community, and save ratepayers and taxpayers money in the long term.”
Importantly, property could be acquired early with adaptation plans in mind, but before final decisions needed to be made. In the short term, property could be retained, potentially rented to maintain housing supply and provide a revenue stream to offset some costs.
In due course, the property could be used for a range of adaptation projects – pumps or pipes, parks or wetlands, or new more resilient housing developments.
Dunedin mayor Jules Radich says the adaptation strategy will outline what is needed in South Dunedin. Acquiring property will enable us to actually do it.”
“If we start acquiring property today, it will give us more options tomorrow, meaning we’ll be better placed to build a new pipe, expand a park, or move a house – whatever is required to make South Dunedin a safer and better place to be,” Radich says.
“Our proposal is proactive and ambitious.” This is not something the Dunedin City Council can do alone and will require support from central government, he says.