Flood-hit Westport braces for more heavy rain amid clean-up

From Checkpoint, 6:10 pm on 21 July 2021

West Coast residents are bracing for more heavy rain as the flood-hit region grapples with finding accommodation for those whose homes have been destroyed.

Associate Housing Minister Poto Williams visited the West Coast earlier today, announcing a helping hand for those needing a place to stay.

Piles of sodden carpet, black rubbish bags and contaminated belongings line the footpaths in Westport.

On the worst-affected streets, emergency services are helping people clean out their houses.

Many have red and yellow stickers in the front windows, indicating whether the homes are safe to reoccupy once cleaned or if they're unliveable.

Officials said the number of unliveable homes was tracking to be well over 100 in Westport.

Hannah Bill manages the cleaning contract for Buller High School and said she arrived on Sunday to find debris everywhere and water logged rooms.

"We sort of came up with a plan as to what we were going to do. Regrouped, grabbed our mops, ripped up some carpet, pulled them out and started getting the water out of the rooms."

Her deadline to have the place cleaned up was rapidly approaching.

"We had a specialised machine in here scrubbing up the dirt off the ground as well as bringing in the sanitising products and stuff like that.

"I'll be here until late Sunday getting the school ready for the kids to come back on Monday."

Alan Satherley, who is staying at the evacuation centre at Westport South School, said he'd like some certainty about where he can lay his head after school resumes and he has to move.

"Just mainly a nice warm place to sleep at night with some electricity would be nice and maybe some wifi and communications."

The government's Temporary Accommodation Service was activated today

Williams said staff would collect registrations from displaced people and connect them with suitable accommodation options.

She was hoping to provide more certainty for affected residents - one option is to create a temporary village of portable cabins.

"People have had quite a lot of disruption over the last few days, so we want to make sure that we get a good match for them and that we don't have to move them more than we absolutely need to and we want to give people some assurance that they will be in that accommodation for as long as they need."

She urged people to sign up even if they didn't expect they'd need temporary accommodation straight away.

Buller District mayor Jamie Cleine said the support wasn't only for those who had a severely damaged homes.

"We don't have the expectation that anyone should be in a wet house. If they feel where they are staying or think they were going to stay is no longer suitable, then they should make themselves known to us and there is an option for them out there."

He wanted to offer a range of accommodation options.

"We want to set this up so it's suitable for people for a year or more or a couple of years, however long it takes really. Rather than going for something that's really cobbled together and then finding in three months time, actually it's not going to be satisfactory."

By early afternoon, the rain had returned.

It was meant to get heavier tonight, with Metservice predicting that between 50 to 70 millimetres could fall on Buller and the Westland Ranges.

But Cleine wasn't too worried at this stage and said they were prepared.

The Westport community is expected to be briefed on the latest at a meeting this evening.