8 Feb 2023

Waitangi Day disrupts timetable for council payouts to flood-hit Aucklanders

5:26 pm on 8 February 2023
Some Māngere streets' skip bins are full of discarded items after flooding in Auckland.

Damaged goods pile up outside a property in Māngere in Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Residents who have been affected by the flood are still waiting to receive payments from the council's Emergency Relief Fund.

Since the $1.5 million fund was announced last week, more than 800 people have applied to Auckland Council with thousands more claims expected.

Auckland Council's executive officer for governance and CCO (council-controlled organisations) partnerships Anna Bray said the Waitangi Day public holiday affected the release of the first payments, which should have happened yesterday.

"We were trying to get our first payment run out yesterday, but we missed that unfortunately, a little bit challenged by the public holiday.

"But the first payment will start from tomorrow and will go out twice a week from then."

Bray said the timeframe between applying and receiving the money should only be a matter of days.

"Now that we've got the payments process set up, each Tuesday and Thursday they [the payments] should be going out."

She said some of the applications might need more assessment than others, and those people might have to wait longer to be able to access the funds.

'I don't think we have enough'

The current $1.5m fund is a combination of several contributions.

"There was the initial contribution from central government as the flood just started, $100,000," Bray said. "Then Auckland Council has matched that with a further $100,000 and then government made a cabinet decision to contribute a million dollars to that."

Companies like ANZ had also contributed, as well as members of the public and small businesses, she said.

But will that money be enough to cover all those in hardship after the wild weather?

"I think we don't have enough, just based on what we've got in terms of the applications already, but we will do our very best to find funding for people," Bray said.

"We are trying to maximise what we've got by just seeing if there's other funding sources that some of our applicants can also go to."

One of the other funding sources that can be accessed by those living in hardship after the flooding are the payments given from Civil Defence, handled by the Ministry of Social Development.

Group general manager client service delivery Graham Allpress said as of 7 February, MSD had issued $11.4m worth of Civil Defence payments to 22,653 people.

"Civil Defence payments fall under hardship assistance. Like other forms of social welfare this is demand driven," he said in a statement.

Allpress said Civil Defence payments were allocated from within an existing budget.

Earlier today the Greens called on the government to double Civil Defence payments to reflect the rising costs of essentials.

Spokesperson for social development Ricardo Menéndez March said despite the Civil Defence payment being reviewed just last year, it is the same as it was on 15 July 2013.

"To put that into context, food prices have gone up 26 percent since 2013," he said.

"This is why as well as doubling payments in the interim, we need to increase benefits to liveable levels to ensure people are not being left behind as we tackle the climate crisis."

He believed doubling the maximum payment for household essentials would not have a significant budgetary impact, as it would be a one off.

If you have been affected by the flood and need help, you can apply for an Auckland Council grant here or a Civil Defence payment here.

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