Matatā retreat labelled ‘diabolical' following Govt flood warning

Source: 1News

As the Government warned that some coastal communities may need to prepare to be displaced by rising sea levels, the last resident to leave a flood-devastated town, said the handling of that evacuation was "diabolical".

The Bay of Plenty town of Matatā was flooded in 2005.

Pam Whalley, 80, was the last Matatā resident to leave the town in what the Government described as a "managed retreat".

Flooding tore through the Bay of Plenty town in 2005, the retreat announced in 2019 intended to allow "at-risk property owners to sell their properties and relocate to a safer environment", but there was a backlash among the community.

Whalley says the handling of the evacuation was "diabolical" and believes the stress of the situation contributed to her late husband's poor heart health.

She has a warning for those who may have to move due to climate change in the future.

"Communication is a big thing for a lot of people, most people I think, and that's the thing that's missing is the communication."

"You can't really fight, your hands are tied, you've got no say, they just ignore everything... They tell you what they want you to know and you can't get any answers, it's very frustrating to be treated like that.

"They paid me $950,000 for a half-acre right by the beach, with a big two-storey five-bedroom home on it, and that amount wouldn't even buy a small three-bedroom place in Papamoa. It wasn't like for like, it was what they decided they would pay."

Whalley didn't want to leave and says that, despite their fears at the time, their house was undamaged by the flooding.

READ MORE: 'People need to heal' - Matatā residents unhappy with proposal to move them on

"It was quite frightening and... we could see it coming straight for us and taking out everything in its path and it was over a metre high.

"Our house wasn't damaged in the flood, it all went around it because of the way it was built. We were a bit higher than the houses either side of us, so things went round."

When the retreat was announced, Whakatāne Mayor Tony Bonne backed the approach and said the safety of residents is paramount.

He also said that "owner participation is voluntary".

"But we believe the managed retreat package offers a fair solution which will allow property owners to move on with their lives."

Following Wednesday's announcement of the Government's climate change adaptation plan, a proposed framework for how managed retreat would be managed would be set out in the Climate Adaptation Bill, which is expected to be introduced in Parliament by the end of 2023.

An estimated 70,000 houses in coastal areas around the country are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, with thousands more located near waterways at risk.