17 Dec 2018

Piha flood victims still waiting for decision on water-damaged homes

12:17 pm on 17 December 2018

Almost nine months after a devastating flood swept through Piha on Auckland's west coast, some residents on a flood-prone road still have no idea what's going to become of their water-damaged homes.

Joe Ward and Kim Kerrigan

Joe Ward and Kim Kerrigan in Mr Ward's mud-caked home Photo: RNZ / Matthew Theunissen

Glenesk Rd residents want answers; but some are frustrated by what they see as a lack of consultation by Auckland Council, and deadlines not being met.

"I got washed around under the house, crashed up against a cross beam, managed to get around to the property and then went in, tried the French doors and then wondered the strange humming noise was. Then I realised it was all the amps and electrical equipment was under water," resident Kim Kerrigan said.

As if the drama of her near-death experience was not enough, Ms Kerrigan has since been submerged in a sea of red tape.

Her home is one of nine deemed to be unsafe for habitation by Auckland Council.

However, this decision is being independently reviewed by consultancy by Tonkin & Taylor, which was meant to present its findings in October.

Now that's been delayed until January, leaving Ms Kerrigan and the other affected residents in limbo.

"We would like to see the council take responsibility and actually do their job. If they cannot offer flood protection and control, as the Local Government Act says they should, they need to tell us that honestly," she said.

"We'd been treated as if we've done something wrong.

The accommodation supplement she's been receiving to help pay for a rental is also due to expire in January and Ms Kerrigan does not know how she could possibly pay for a mortgage as well as rent.

She told Morning Report not knowing what the future holds has been incredibly difficult to handle.

"Our insurers want to repair our homes and put us back in them even though council deem them uninhabitable. We're between a rock and hard place, we just don't know what's going on.

"The only choice we will have, once the allowance runs out, will be to move back into the house with no kitchen facilities, no bathroom, wiring in half the house not being remedied. We'll be in a vulnerable position but it's the only choice we have."

Flooded Piha camping ground

The Piha camping ground was flooded in February and may now have to shut down, after a council report found future flooding could result in loss of life. Photo: Facebook / Piha Domain camping ground

Ms Kerrigan said she has written to the Minister for the Environment, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and the chief executive asking for help but is yet to get a response.

"Auckland Council don't want to know, they don't want to set a precedent.

"That's actually the bottom of the argument, they don't want to set a precedent with Piha where they help us out of a situation that's endangering our lives.

"It's been awful, the depth of despair it just ... it's very hard, very hard to get out of bed some days."

A couple of houses down, mud still cakes the timber floorboards of Joe Ward's house.

"We don't really want to come back and live here. You know, we've seen the flooding here and it's very scary.

"When we were here once last year, we had to call emergency services but they couldn't get in to get us. We were lucky that the water receded."

Mr Ward said the way some affected residents had been treated was "appalling".

"We want a resolution. We want the council and the insurance company to do what they should be doing. It's more the council really that's holding everything up."

Joe Ward in his mid-caked home in Piha

Joe Ward said the residents wanted a resolution. Photo: RNZ / Matthew Theunissen

Auckland councillor Penny Hulse said it wasn't right that the process has taken so long.

"No, I don't think it is [right]. And when you boil it down, these are people and if they are out of their houses that they'd expect to be living in safely and happily, then that's not okay."

However, she said it was understandable that it was taking a while because the issue needs to be rigourously assessed to ensure people's safety.

Ms Hulse said she would back giving the accommodation supplement to affected residents until they find a new home.

In a letter to residents last week, the council's healthy waters manager Craig McIlroy said no dangerous building notices would be issued until the review of the council's report is completed, probably early next year.

He offers his assurance that the council is focusing on carrying out a rigourous review to get the best results.

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