22 Aug 2022

Nelson residents wait for answers on flood-hit houses

8:28 am on 22 August 2022

Some people in flood-torn Nelson have been told their homes are unliveable with hundreds of homes still awaiting assessments.

People affected by floods in Nelson at a meeting in the city on Sunday 21 August 2022.

People affected by floods in Nelson at a meeting in the city. Photo: RNZ / Adam Burns

The city remains in a state of emergency and is facing a monumental clean-up ahead.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is in Nelson today to survey the damage.

Nine properties have been red-stickered so far. More than 500 houses have been evacuated since Thursday because of flooding and slip damage.

Andrea Warn, Ward Carter and their two children are holed up in a motel.

They are trying to stay positive, despite their beloved home being red stickered yesterday due to landslips and rockfall threatening their property.

Warn said they would be devastated if they never returned.

"You get quite positive and you muck in and you do the mahi and you think 'yep we're going to get through this'.

"Then the boys show up and red sticker your house and it's back to feeling like zero again."

Her partner Ward Carter admits the news is a gut punch.

He said it was going to take small steps to get them back to where they belonged.

"Until we get some definitive answers out of the assessors about some sort of timeline, each day is like 'oh well what's going to happen today'.

"Our only real immediate concern is where are we living for the next two, three, four, five weeks."

Nelson flood damage in Atawhai as seen on 19 August 2022.

Nelson flood damage in Atawhai as seen on 19 August 2022. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

More than 100 locals affected by the floods had similar questions at yesterday's public meeting at Nelson's Saxton Stadium.

One woman who lives in Rai Valley had not been home since Wednesday morning and asked officials how she was meant to get to work and earn a living with State Highway 6 closed.

"When will there be access to Rai Valley and if State Highway 6 is to be closed for the forseeable future, for people like me who commute, what does that mean for jobs and life in general?"

No Waka Kotahi representatives were present at the meeting.

Her partner Taine Pakipaki said time was running out for the family.

At the meeting, the desperate situation for some was palpable and heartwrenching.

One man pleaded to officials and patrons for help.

Local volunteer Murray Leaner provided free sausages and bread to people after the meeting.

He said getting the necessities was often forgotten when dealing with disasters.

"Often people forget to just keep living their lives and to keep on top of their eating," he said.

"If we can throw some barbecue at them, then all the better, and it does make a difference to their mood."

Nelson's mayor Rachel Reese, at the meeting, lauded the community who have stepped up to support those displaced.

"This past week has been a really challenging week for all of us," she said.

"I do want to acknowledge the disruption and the anxiety and the communities around the region who stepped up."

Damaged homes being assessed

Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty said USAR teams were doing initial inspections, and if any concerns were raised a more detailed assessment was carried out.

"I'm hoping by the end of today we will have the vast majority if not all of those first stages of inspections done. That will help out a lot of people but we do recognise that for those who have had houses yellow- or red-stickered the wait could well be a long time," he said

"If anybody has self-evacuated please do register with Civil Defence because then they can help people and give them the information they need," he told Morning Report.

That could include alternative accommodation, clothing and food, and applied anywhere in the country there was flooding.

McAnulty said more funding would be provided in addition to the initial $200,000 for the mayoral relief fund and $150,000 from the rural support trust.

Nelson mayor Rachel Reese said second-stage building inspections had been completed on 160 houses.


Waka Kotahi acting national manager of maintenance and operations Mark Owen said the damage to SH6 and SH63 was extensive and the aim was to get one lane open as soon as possible, to have another secure route available into and out of the Nelson region.

"The ground is absolutely saturated - any more rain just adds to some of the challenges."

Tasman west of Motueka is under a heavy rain watch from 1pm to 10pm on Monday, with 20mm to 40mm forecast on already sodden ground.

There was severe damage to roads in the outer Malborough Sounds leaving households isolated, and the initial focus was getting Queen Charlotte Drive open.

'Muddy, messed up'

Maggie Gray's Nile Street home, near the Maitai River, has been yellow-stickered, meaning she is allowed to check her house but can't move back in yet.

The main part of the house was undamaged and she was looking forward to going returning, Gray said.

"We are in for the long haul - we've got a great neighbourhood, we have many friends that we've made over the 24 years that we've been on Nile Street in that same , and we've all come together, we're keeping in touch with each other, we're offering help."

The edge of her property was made into gabion baskets after the big rains in 1998, and Gray said she had had no fear the river bank would fail, but everything growing on it was scoured off.

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