25 Jun 2021

Grim outlook for many after Papatoetoe tornado as people wait for repairs

From Checkpoint, 5:25 pm on 25 June 2021

While the prime minister greeted some in Papatoetoe with smiles and soft toys on Friday morning, the outlook for many recovering from last weekend's tornado remains grim. 

Nearly 100 South Aucklanders remain in emergency housing and there are some grumbles insurers are taking too long to respond.

At one house on Fitzroy Rd, which has been red-stickered, very little has changed. 

The home's chimney is still perched on top of the owners crushed van - insurers refusing to action claim until it has been removed. 

A blown-out wall on the property's garage is yet to be repaired. The family's vegetable garden has been destroyed, as has its back porch. 

Water pipes are cracked, rendered unusable.   

Hayward Rd, just around the corner, is on the mend. Broken branches, twisted steel and scattered roof tiles have mostly been cleared. 

But many homes remain uninhabitable, with owners locked in negotiations with insurers. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was there on Friday to view the devastation, and to deliver soft toys courtesy of her daughter Neve. 

She said more money in addition to the $100,000 the government has already pledged could be made available, but stopped short of giving figures or firm commitments. 

"It's a highly discretionary fund that the mayor and council are able to tap into," she said.

"And I've just shared with the mayor if there's any additional need, or it needs to be topped up, then I'd ask that we just be told really early so that we can get onto that quickly, because we are ready and willing to support."

Some 93 people remain in emergency accommodation - their homes too wrecked to be lived in. So far there have been 205 applications from people with extraordinary needs to a disaster relief fund. 

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said nine applications had been made to the $200,000 Mayoral Relief Fund. 

"Basically the two things that mark that fund is: one, it's to deal with hardship, where you can't get support, you're not insured, you can't get support through other channels," he said.

"And the other is flexibility, so we'll be quite flexible to try to ensure that there is no family hit by this natural disaster that will be left in a situation of hardship."

Checkpoint last visited Peter Seth on Monday, when he described ducking for cover at the foot of his bed as the tornado ravaged his one bedroom home, blowing out its windows and smashing holes in its cladding. 

Today he has got power back, he has cleaned his yard and reckons he is close to being able to mow his lawns, but Peter still cannot live in here - inside, the house is still a wee way off being back to normal. 

"I don't know when I'm looking at [getting back].

"I've got a bin there to start picking up the glass from the floor and and just generally make my way through."  

Peter's house was yellow stickered, which means restricted access. 

Glass and fence paling is littered through his home's interior and mud and grass splatters its walls. 

Getting in touch with insurers is on the backburner because his fibre connection is out. An electricity company is working to reconnect Hayward Rd. 

"It's a major upheaval," Peter said. "And different people, again, different things, but in many ways I think ... it's going to be cool once it's all settled down.

"I used to have an oak tree hanging over the house and it's gone now, so that's quite cool." 

Further down Hayward Rd, Jetinder Tapia told Checkpoint his roof was blown up and his car damaged.

He had hoped to get a word in with Ardern today to ask if she could do something, anything, to get insurers moving that little bit quicker. 

It is a sentiment shared by many in this devastated part of Papatoetoe. 

"But what my feeling is, is that the insurance process should be like more fast, in this case, to reinstatement," he said.

"So that is my request."