4 Jul 2017

Anger as dozens of Matata properties need to be abandoned

From Checkpoint, 5:16 pm on 4 July 2017

A risk of "loss of life" due to flooding and debris in a small Bay of Plenty town means 34 properties need to be abandoned, the Whakatāne District Council says.

Properties in Matata were badly damaged in May, 2005 when intense rain forced water and debris into the community.

Locals have told Checkpoint with John Campbell they stayed after 2005 because they were told the risk would be mitigated and cannot believe they are being asked to leave now.

Homes in Matata were destroyed when intense rain forced debris into the community in 2005.

    Homes in Matata were destroyed when intense rain forced debris into the community in 2005. Photo: SUPPLIED/ Michele Beach

Whakatāne District Council deputy mayor Judy Turner told Checkpoint that at first the council, and this was before her time, believed mitigation schemes would work.

"And that's certainly what people at the time said they wanted."

But in 2012, they were told a debris net would not make the homes sufficiently safe.

Scientific work carried out since then confirmed that there was "considerable risk" to people remaining in their homes.

"For people to be asked to voluntarily retreat from their property you want to give them clear evidence," Ms Turner said.

"Once we have the evidence then we have to begin the journey of discussing this with the people involved."

Matata is 24km north-west of Whakatāne.

Matata is 24km north-west of Whakatāne. Photo: Screenshot / GoogleMaps

In May the council decided to initiate a change to the district plan which, if approved, would remove the current residential zoning and prevent any further development in the area.

But she said even with the change the district council did not have the power to compel people to leave the area.

However, the regional council does, Ms Turner said.

"We've talked to the regional council about their need to step up ... they, at this stage, have shown no interest in doing that."

In the meantime the council was discussing an incentivised  "voluntary retreat package" with the property owners affected.

"What I would like the regional council to do is to change their plan.

"I would like them to come to the party because the amount of money it would take for us to actually provide a reasonable incentive for people to leave is beyond the financial capacity of this council."

She said the council had asked central government for help with funding but had not heard anything concrete.  

The regional council said in a statement that it has not received a formal request from the district council to change its plan.

Anger at decision delay

Michele Beach, whose home was damaged in 2005, said she was upset it had taken so long for the council to act.

"I'm just so angry with them with the 12 years of bullshit that we've put up with.

"They will pay me $200,000 they've offered, which is what the section is apparently valued at back in 2004."

Marilyn rebuilt in Matata after her home was destroyed by debris flow in 2005 because she was told the risk would be mitigated.

She said she would have gone then if someone had asked her to, and paid her out accordingly.

"I feel that we have been lied to for 12 years, strung along.

"We wouldn't have sunk all our money back into this if we knew this was where it was going to end," Marilyn said.