“Once-in-a-generation” project complete

Work on Invercargill’s Stead Street Stopbank Upgrade is officially complete.

Mana whenua were joined by Deputy Mayor Tom Campbell, Council staff, contractors and guests for a whakawātea and blessing on Thursday 27 April to celebrate the completion of a “once-in-a-generation” project.

Invercargill City Council started work in 2021 to upgrade the Stead St stopbank with a sheet pile wall to protect the city, the Invercargill Airport and critical infrastructure from extreme weather events, sea level rise, flooding and further effects of climate change.

Council invested $4.7 million in the project with additional funding of $10.8m coming from Kānoa – the Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit, as part of a wider focus on the region’s flood protection and river management schemes.

The project joined other “shovel ready” projects across Southland that were supported by Kānoa and announced in 2020.

A kilometre of sheetpile stopbank, two kilometres of earthen embankment stopbank, along with two and a half kilometres of shared-use path and associated landscaping have been created, along with an adjacent shared pathway along Airport Ave.

Invercargill City Council Group Manager Infrastructure Erin Moogan said the extensive work was crucial to the continued protection of major parts of Southland’s infrastructure, including the city and the airport.

“Having being supported in this project by both Kānoa, mana whenua and our wider community was critical to the completion of this once-in-a-generation project,” she said.

This extensive work disrupted traffic to and from Ōtātara for around six months to accommodate the machinery required to install the sheet piling.

“Hopefully our community can now see the benefit of their sacrifice. We continue to be so thankful of their support and patience as we completed this major piece of work.”

Council worked in partnership with mana whenua, with Rūnaka teaching project team members the history and the values mana whenua hold for the area.

Waihōpai Rūnaka-led mahi toi elements, Te Ara Tūpuna, have been installed on the stopbank and on Airport Avenue – waka tīwai becomes part of the stopbank itself, hoe paddle posts stand along the length, Kā Matau o Te Maramataka rises at the intersection of Airport Ave and Stead St and Te Mana a Kewa dives at the airport end of Airport Ave.

These pieces were created by lead artist James York, fabricated by Art Fetiche, co-ordinated and designed by Keri Whaitri and with kaupapa informed by the Waihōpai Rūnaka Narratives Committee.

Landscaping was completed by council partner Te Tapu o Tāne along Airport Ave and the stopbank itself.

Te Ara Tūpuna project coordinator Keri Whaitiri said the end results spoke to a process based on partnership, mutual respect and excellent working relationships.

“The works mark a major gateway to the city and region, recognises the kaupapa and kōrero of Waihōpai whānau and is something the whole community can share in and be proud of.”

Work will continue along Stead St as Environment Southland works on the construction of a new pump station, furthering flood protection for the area.