2 Mar 2023

'We have land that is build-ready': Housing minister considers temporary Hawke's Bay villages

8:25 pm on 2 March 2023
Danelle Kendrick standing in her Eskdale home.

Danelle Kendrick standing in her Eskdale home. Photo: RNZ / Lauren Crimp

It is still unclear how many people have been made homeless in Hawke's Bay more than two weeks after Cyclone Gabrielle struck.

Government figures show 128 households in the region had applied to the Temporary Accommodation Service since it became available on Monday.

But almost 1000 homes were red or yellow stickered.

Housing Minister Megan Woods said that was because many people were still in immediate cleanup mode, so the government still did not know the size of the job lying ahead.

"We know at the moment there's a lot of people that are staying with friends and family, that probably won't do that for the period of time that it might require for their house to be repaired.

"So what I'm really urging people to do is to come forward, to register with the Temporary Accommodation Service, so we really can start to build that picture for the recovery of what the demand's going to look like."

Along with councils, iwi and community groups, they were prepping for big numbers. The government was considering temporary villages and housing that could fulfil a permanent purpose once it had done its dash as a short-term solution.

If there was a silver lining, Woods said the government had earmarked land in Hawke's Bay that was ready to build on. It was meant for a programme designed to curb the housing crisis that already existed.

"Not many parts of New Zealand can say, is that actually we have land that is build-ready. It's got the infrastructure in, in some places it's consented, and it is good to go to get houses on it."

Caravans, campgrounds and showhomes all short-term solutions

Many were turning to social media to find somewhere to live, and social services reported people were staying with friends and family, at marae, in campgrounds and in caravans and garages.

Danelle Kendrick and her young whānau were one of many in their Eskdale community torn away from the place they love.

"I miss it, it's my home. Even though we're staying elsewhere, it's not my place, my soul's here."

She counted herself lucky - through connections with her husband's job, they' had been put up in a home in Napier for now.

"We're very very lucky that we've been able to have that, as I know lots of other people are still trying to find homes, and that makes me feel guilty, but I needed that for my kids, I needed a house for them."

Their displacement insurance would cover a slice of the rent but Kendrick said the rest would stack up on top of the mortgage and rates for their destroyed home. "I'm trying not to let my mind wander there yet, it's going to be stressful."

That housing was organised through TW Group, which has trades, property development, and real estate arms. TW Trades chief executive Jamie Webster said many families who worked for the company had lost their homes.

"Through our property arm, we had I think eight new homes, finished and signed off by the council in Te Awa not that long ago.

"We decided to pull those off the market and put some of our displaced families in there."

They housed about 20 families in those showhomes, and rentals. "They'll be able to stay there for as long as they need to, to ensure they've got a home, to be honest."

Chance Wharekawa and his partner Melissa in a caravan.

Chance Wharekawa and his partner Melissa have had unstable housing since Cyclone Gabrielle. Photo: RNZ / Lauren Crimp

Chance Wharekawa and his partner Melissa had been staying in various caravans offered up by friends after being displaced following the cyclone.

They were grateful, but anxious.

"Yeah, been a bit rough, just moving you know, not having a stable situation," Wharekawa said.

"I mean what we've got right now is definitely good, but it's not what we had, or what we lost."

Melissa said they had no idea what would come next. They were looking for houses to rent but with a shortage already burdening the region before Cyclone Gabrielle hit, they will be registering for the Temporary Accommodation Service.

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