12 Mar 2019

No buy-out option in offer to flood-hit Piha homeowners

7:31 pm on 12 March 2019

Auckland Council is resisting calls to buy up flood-damaged homes in Piha, despite owners saying it's the cheapest option to deal with a disaster that still has some residents out of their homes one year on.

Flooded Piha camping ground

A campsite damaged by recent floods in Piha. Photo: Facebook / Piha Domain camping ground

Councillors met today to discuss the issue of the waterlogged West Auckland homes, and voted to take options to residents that could mitigate the risk of it happening again.

Kim Kerrigan's home on Glenesk Rd in Piha was taken over by heavy flash flooding last April.

"The lounge, kitchen, dining room, laundry, the bathroom... basically the whole living and functional area [is damaged]. It's a fairly extensive amount of damage."

An independent report into the flooding by consultants Tonkin and Taylor warned that Glenesk Rd was likely to flood every year.

Auckland Council will offer eight options to affected residents to try to stop that happening, ranging from doing nothing, to raising the level of the street, to building a dam or a tunnel for rainwater.

But Mayor Phil Goff said four of the eight options weren't realistic.

And some of the residents want another option altogether - for the Council to buy their uninhabitable and flood-prone homes so they can move on with their lives.

But the mayor is wary of what buying flood-hit homes would mean for the future, even though it's the cheaper option.

"Purchasing flood-prone properties would be a lot cheaper than the engineering options. But we'd have to apply the same criteria across the whole region, to be fair," he said.

"We can't say we'll help people by buying their properties here [in Piha], but somewhere else where people are being flooded, no we cant do it."

The Council knows that heavy rain events are likely to be more frequent as climate change rolls on. It estimates one in 10 Auckland homes will flood in a one-in-a-100 year rainstorm.

Deputy mayor Bill Cashmore was wary it was a nationwide risk that could call for the same kind of response as an earthquake warranted.

"Piha's a microcosm of what's potentially coming our way, region and nationwide," he said.

The Council's own climate change report said that under moderate projections it was likely the city would have more extreme weather events, with more frequent heavy rainfall and westerly winds.

Its current estimates predict 10 percent of all buildings in Auckland lie within areas that will flood during a one-in-100 year rainstorm.

"What [are] we going to do here, whether we go for some form of earthquake or damages type of nationwide insurance policy - is that being left to the Crown or should we be leading this charge?" Mr Cashmore said.

Ms Kerrigan said no other option fitted the bill, and buying the homes to get them out of their limbo was the best and cheapest.

"At least make the offer to people that want it... it seems the most sensible option to take."

She says Piha's situation is unique, with a steep catchment of over 1100 hectares, with a waterfall at the end of the road, which is not the case for other areas of Auckland.

"I think the unique situation out there doesn't set a precedent for the rest of Auckland. That is what they're afraid of, and I understand that, but I really don't think it would [set a precedent]."

The Council will take the eight options to residents, businesses, and iwi in Piha, and come back with a summary in June, before a decision's made on the next step.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs