15 May 2023

Hundreds with flood-damaged properties await answers on temporary accommodation

8:01 pm on 15 May 2023
Dozens of caravans with tent extensions are parked at the Muriwai beach campground, where displaced families have found refuge.

In March, Muriwai families displaced by the flooding took refuge in caravans at a beach campground. Photo: RNZ / Lucy Xia

More than 300 households whose properties were wrecked by flooding earlier this year are still waiting for a temporary home - or are in limbo about whether they will need one.

The hold-up is partly because the Temporary Accommodation Service (TAS) is waiting for the government to decide which land is safe to use.

TAS accommodation response Steve Watson said motorhomes and portacabins would be the main solution for those who registered for help following Cyclone Gabrielle and the Auckland Anniversary weekend floods.

There are 316 households either waiting for a temporary home, or waiting to find out if the situation with their house will mean they need one.

Some of them may cancel their requests or eventually be able to move back home and not need the help - but Watson could not say when the rest would be out of limbo.

There were plenty of motorhomes and portacabins to go around, but they needed to know which land was safe for them, Watson said.

That partly hinged on the long-awaited government announcement on which category flood-damaged properties fell into, dictating whether or not the land could be rebuilt on - and have temporary accommodation put there in the meantime.

"They will need land to be placed on," Watson said.

"We have a number of motorhomes ready to be deployed, once we have the due diligence completed on the land."

The government is starting consultation with owners of the worst affected properties in early June.

'Hope is fading' for those awaiting help

A community-led cleanup underway in Waiohiki on Saturday.

Some Waiohiki houses were inundated with water during the flooding earlier this year. Photo: RNZ/Sally Murphy

Among those waiting for temporary accommodation are Waiohiki residents who are still living at Waipatu marae in Hastings, after floodwaters destroyed their tiny community.

There were more than 100 immediately after the cyclone, but 15 still remained.

Tia Tomoana is a first responder at the marae and has been looking after displaced whānau since they arrived.

They were mostly elderly and uninsured, and the impact of being without a home and away from their whenua for so long was taking its toll, Tomoana said.

"The hope is fading. The hope is fading for them and I think the best way forward for them would be to get them all a campervan or something, so they can be on their own land."

The main barrier to returning home was that septic systems were ruined and there was no water supply - so motorhomes would solve that problem, Tomoana said.

"There is the supply of water that comes with that, the supply of effluent which they can then drive off their property and get rid of that effluent in a proper way.

"But also it enables them to be on their property and slowly work on their own houses, in their own time, at their own pace."

Some of the community were put up in Airbnbs through TAS.

Tomoana said while they were grateful, it was not always practical, because they were away from the homes they needed to clean up and repair.

Meanwhile, others took matters into their own hands.

The cleanup continues in Te Karaka, a settlement inland from Gisborne, in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle.

Residents cleaning up in Te Karaka, a settlement inland from Gisborne, after Cyclone Gabrielle earlier this year. Photo: RNZ / Sam Rillstone

In Tai Rāwhiti, iwi and businesses leapt into action immediately after the cyclone - anticipating the government would move too slowly.

Funded and coordinated by local iwi consortium Toitu Tairāwhiti, Hikurangi Enterprises got out the tools and started building transportable homes, quadrupling their usual output.

Its director, Panapa Ehau, said the business had whipped up 15 homes, and between them and other suppliers, most displaced whānau in Tai Rāwhiti would have roofs over their heads before winter.

"There's huge amounts of anxiety when you don't have a home, you don't know when anyone's going to be able to help and it's already getting cold," Ehau said.

"We've got our first big cold snap coming this week, so it's timely that most of these whānau are going to be in temporary accommodation before the end of this month."

The homes would be temporary for some, but others might remain in them if their homes could not be rebuilt, Ehau said.

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