After attending today’s Government meeting, Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief, Mr. Seán Canney T.D., has announced he has secured €2m for the introduction of a once-off targeted Voluntary Homeowner Relocation Scheme.

The Minister said “this is a targeted humanitarian aid scheme for those primary residential properties that flooded during last Winter and had flooded in previous years to ensure those worst affected homeowners have a primary residence”.

He said that the Government has agreed that while the terms of funding for relocation will be in line with the previous scheme in 2009; he is to appraise Government of the ongoing review of the administrative arrangements from that earlier scheme, to ensure that the arrangements for this once-off scheme are reflective of its targeted objective and all relevant circumstances.

The Minister in acknowledging that this initiative is a scheme of last resort for Government and people, stressed “it is critical that the Government investment is targeted at those homeowners at greatest risk of future flooding and would gain greatest benefit from State support to relocate”.

The Minister said he expects the ongoing work to identify and prioritise homeowners and the review of the administrative arrangements, being undertaken jointly by OPW, Local Authorities and the Department of Social Protection, will allow him appraise Government and subsequently make initial contact with a small number of targeted homeowners towards the end of this year.

Part of the consideration he said will include feasible flood relief measures now published in the 29 draft Flood Risk Management Plans that will provide protection to almost all properties assessed at risk from flooding within these at risk areas. The Minister said that the annual allocation for flood defence works will more than double in the next five years from €45m to €100m and in overall terms is similar to the investment made over the past twenty years.

This level of funding increase together with 12 major schemes at construction this year – a threefold increase in one year – and the work of a cross Ministerial Group that is identifying ways to reduce the timeframe for delivery of major flood defence schemes, reflect the Government’s commitment to accelerating its work to tackle flood risk.

The Government also announced that further examination is ongoing by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, OPW and Local Authorities in evaluating on an individual basis if any alternative remedial works can be undertaken to protect those at risk farm buildings that flooded again last Winter in order to inform the feasibility of any future once-off targeted scheme for Voluntary Farm Building Relocation.

The Minister also got approval from the Government to publish the progress report by the Interdepartmental Flood Policy Co-ordination Group he chairs. (The Progress Report is available here). He highlighted that since last Winter, Dutch experts “have benchmarked our approach to flood risk management and concluded that Ireland is in line with international best practice and is well on track”.

As part of the progress report, the Government agreed that the current strategy for improving the availability of flood insurance cover should be continued namely:

prioritising spending on flood relief measures by OPW and relevant local authorities, and improving channels of communication between the OPW and the insurance industry in order to reach a better understanding about the provision of flood cover in protected areas, complemented as necessary by targeted State emergency humanitarian assistance after flood events.

The success of this approach is evidenced by the increase in the availability of flood insurance in areas where flood defences have been installed, both fixed and demountable. Recent survey results show that overall, 83% of property insurance policies in protected areas include cover against flood risk and where the defences are permanent in nature, the percentage is 89%.

The Minister highlighted that the Government investment in capital works of €480m since 1995 is yielding significant benefit, in terms of protecting 12,000 properties and in economic benefit to the State in terms of damage and losses avoided estimated at some €1.2 billion.

Minister Canney highlighted the progress on the broad range of flood risk policies and measures underway including:

the Shannon Flood Risk State Agency Co-ordination Working Group has agreed to trial lowering lake levels in Lough Allen and consider the benefits of piloting the removal of pinchpoints and dredging the Shannon, as a further committment to enhance co-ordinated activities by the relevant State Agencies,
flood gates are to be installed in Crossmolina from the week of 14th November as part of the progress with the Government’s pilots to inform any future Government measures to support Individual Property Protection, and
the implementation Plan for the establishment of the National Flood Forecasting Service within Met Éireann over the coming five years has been agreed and work to commence the service has begun.