Piha flooding: 'If it's raining you're terrified in your own home' - Residents frustrated at further report delays

6:59 am on 1 February 2019

Residents on Piha's Glenesk Road who have been left homeless after severe flooding last year feel they've once again been let down by Auckland Council.

Joe Ward and Kim Kerrigan

Photo: RNZ / Matthew Theunissen

The nine homeowners were this week expecting to receive some indication of what's going to become of their water-damaged homes, but instead they said they've had nothing more than further delays and lip service.

The long-awaited update sent to Glenesk Rd residents yesterday said that an independent report on the flood risks had been pushed out to mid-February.

In addition - and previously unknown to residents spoken to by RNZ - the matter now has to go before the council's Environment and Community Committee in March.

Kim Kerrigan, one of the residents, said it's a kick in the guts.

The accommodation supplement paid by her insurance company that's enabling her to stay in a short-term rental runs out in a couple of weeks, and she can't afford to pay rent as well as the mortgage on her mud-caked home in Piha.

"We don't know what we're going to do. We've got no idea. Our only immediate option is to move back to a house that's really not liveable," she said.

Ms Kerrigan nearly lost her life in last April's flood, when she was washed under her house in a torrent of water.

She doesn't want to live on Glenesk Rd anymore, but until the council decides whether the flood risk can be mitigated, or that it's not worth investing in flood management infrastructure, she can't claim insurance.

"It's been pushed out three times now. It was initially November, December, January and now it's February so it's actually it's the fourth push. It's just crazy," she said.

"Currently, they are talking about installing rain gauges and other equipment to measure things, well, they're a day late and a dollar short with that because they should have been doing this for years. Monitoring it now is really way too late in the game; they should be removing people from the risk of death."

Environment and Community Committee chairperson Penny Hulse said she understood the residents' frustrations but stressed that it's important the report, by consultants Tonkin and Taylor, is thorough.

"This is an exceedingly complex rural catchment and there's not the same amount of measurement and documented history that we've got in other catchments," she said.

"And this report really needs to be robust - it needs to stand up in court it needs to stand up to people's insurance challenges."

Councillors have asked for a comprehensive set of options to be brought before the Environment and Community Committee when it meets on 12 March.

Ms Hulse was hopeful that a final decision will be made then and that the issue is not kicked over to another committee.

"I've always been pretty keen on us taking the time to do the work and then being brave and making those decisions. The homeowners do deserve to know what their future is and where council's going with this.

"I can never guarantee, though, that all my colleagues will be resolute in joining me about this but I'll be doing my best as chair to land a decision."

For Kim Kerrigan and the other Glenesk Rd residents, a decision can't come soon enough.

"It's not a nice feeling to be in your home and scared if it starts to rain. 'Cause that's what it comes down to; if it's raining you're terrified in your own home and you've got no safe way of getting out onto the road either. It's terrible."

It's not only Glenesk Rd residents whose lives have been rocked by floods in recent times.

The popular Piha Domain campground was forced to remove all of its cabins and caravans and may have to shut down entirely after a concerning council report on last year's floods.

Just down the road, the Piha Mill Camp is also closed after being swamped by flood waters.

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