New Zealand’s Building Issues Minister Clayton Cosgrove has released a discussion document looking at safety options for larger dams.

Cosgrove said the importance of dam safety in the country has been highlighted by the breach of the Opuha Dam in 1997 and flood events in the late 1990s and in 2004.

‘A formal system of dam monitoring, inspection and maintenance is clearly needed,’ the Minister said. ‘Dams sometimes fail, meaning there is potential for loss of life, damage to property and the environment. The proposed measures will ensure dams are well built, that larger dams are regularly monitored, and that potential risks are reduced.’

A dam will have to have a storage capacity of about 1.5M litres and be 3m or more deep to be covered by the proposed safety scheme. Owners of smaller dams are not affected.

The Regulations for the Dam Safety Scheme: Discussion document proposes:

• New regulations to establish a dam classification system involving certification by qualified engineers.

• The criteria and standards for dam safety assurance programmes.

• Definitions of dangerous dams.

• The introduction of dam owner accreditation.

Many major dams already have safety management programmes, and these are still relevant. The proposed new scheme pulls all regulatory requirements together. It also recognises that risk factors for a dam can change over time due to factors such as site conditions, hazards such as flood events or earthquakes, and effectiveness of maintenance.

The wide range of stakeholders consulted in developing the proposed new regulations includes: regional authorities; the energy industry; professional engineers; dam owners; local government; farming; and other rural affairs representatives. Government departments, including the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, were also consulted.

The Regulations for the Dam Safety Scheme: Discussion document is available from the Department of Building and Housing via the weblink below, or by telephoning +64 800 242 243. Submissions are open until 31 August 2006. The dam safety scheme is expected to be in place in 2007.

External weblinks

New Zealand Department of Building and Housing