Voluntary buyout to be offered to 700 cyclone, flood-hit home owners

Thu, Jun 1
Mountains of silt remain in the Esk Valley, amid ruined homes, businesses and vehicles.

The Government has announced it will give some owners of properties battered by flooding and Cyclone Gabrielle the option to be bought out.

Co-funded by both the Government and councils, around 700 properties are expected to qualify, with $100 million already set aside in this year's Budget.

Decisions on the details of how the voluntary buyout process will work will be made in the coming weeks, Minister for Cyclone Recovery Grant Robertson announced today.

This will include the criteria for valuation of Category 3 properties, the split of costs between councils and central government and the treatment of uninsured properties.

“The focus of today is on residential properties. We are working with sectors, such as the horticulture sector on possible targeted support for commercial operators, and on regional plans that will provide overall support for recovery and rebuild,” Robertson said.

Properties determined able to be fixed to manage future severe weather events (Catergory 2) will also be offered help by Government and councils to build flood protection and other resilience measures. It's estimated 10,000 homes across the country will fall into this category.

Hawke's Bay councils were from today revealing final decisions on which properties are in the low-risk category, and giving estimates of the numbers of higher-risk properties.

A map showing categories of properties in Esk Valley.

A parallel process is also underway to engage with Māori, including on appropriate processes for whenua Māori. The process will ensure that there are equitable outcomes for these communities.

“The weather events saw property damaged across multiple areas of the North Island. There is no precedent for the response required, but we do know that with climate change there will be more events like this in the future,” Robertson said.

“The Government is committed to assisting local councils to find solutions for those who have been affected. As I have said many times we cannot meet all the costs, particularly knowing that we will see more extreme weather events like this.

“As a government we have to strike a careful fiscal balance between supporting affected communities and not making all tax-payers bear the cost. But the affected communities can be assured we are committed to making this approach work.”

Affected owners will be contacted in 2 weeks - council

In response to the Government's announcement, Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown said more work is needed before his council can provide needed certainty for those affected.

"It's good to see the Government making some progress in this area, and the council now needs to look into the Government's proposal and assess what it means for Auckland and Aucklanders," he said in a statement.

Auckland Council will start to communicate with homeowners affected by the extreme weather from June 12 about their initial risk categorisation, according to a media release.

"We are balancing the need to provide people with certainty as soon as possible, with the need to get this right and be careful about scarce ratepayer resources," Brown said.

Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson said officials will use the Government's framework to progress assessments under the council's Making Space for Water programme.

"From 12 June, we will begin to contact property owners who have been identified through modelling as being potential high risk. The letter will explain that their property may be high-risk and needs further assessment," she said.

"In the communication with this group of property owners, we will be asking them to provide us with more information about their property so we can accelerate risk assessments for them.

"We hope this approach will help get us to a decision about individual homes quicker."


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