21 Aug 2023

Nelson homeowners affected by flooding should be treated same as Cyclone Gabrielle victims - National

8:20 pm on 21 August 2023
Red-stickered home owner Yoann Martichon, pictured with National Party members Gerry Brownlee and Blair Cameron.

Yoann Martichon, pictured with National Party emergency management spokesperson Gerry Brownlee and Nelson candidate Blair Cameron. Photo: RNZ / Samantha Gee

Flood-affected homeowners in Nelson should be treated the same as those recovering from Cyclone Gabrielle, the National Party says.

National's Nelson candidate Blair Cameron and emergency management spokesperson Gerry Brownlee visited several red-stickered homeowners in Nelson on Monday.

One of those was Yoann Martichon, whose family have been living in rental accommodation since a slip damaged their Brook Valley home, rendering it unliveable in the severe weather event last August.

"Right now a year on, there is not much progress. The mud is gone, all the slip has been cleared but besides that, nothing has moved. We're still waiting for the repair to be carried out on the slip itself, to make it safe for us to rebuild the house."

Around 17 tonnes of mud and debris have been removed from their property, but the family cannot move back in until work is done to stabilise the council reserve behind their property, which is due to begin in November.

The couple then have a builder booked to repair the damaged part of their house, which is estimated to take three months, meaning the soonest they will be able to move back in is next April.

That is if everything goes to plan - and it will be 18 months after the slip forced them from their home.

"We had to find our own rental and since then we moved four times already, which is a lot in a year. Then dealing with insurance, EQC and lawyers ... it was a long process to get to a settlement, it took seven months.

"These things are gonna happen more and more in New Zealand. As we know, there's going to be more rain events, earthquakes, so the government should have learned from the past, they haven't. They're making all these complicated steps for homeowners to go through."

Brownlee said it was dreadful that the process was taking so long, with many people still waiting to learn if and when they could return home.

"A lot of people here are caught between what an insurance company will do, what EQC can do, and in some cases neither can do, but they still have homes with a red sticker, so they are caught [in] no man's land, and there has to be some kind of solution to give them a bit of go-forward."

Brownlee said the government needs to have another look at the situation in Nelson, and that residents around the country should receive the same support after significant storm events.

Cameron said he wanted to see equitable treatment across the country for those affected by severe weather events.

"I'm just fighting to make sure that Nelson gets equitable treatment, I think it's really unfair on these families that have seen the North Island get preferential treatment. Nelson needs certainty, Nelson needs a fair deal."

Mayor Nick Smith has said the current situation is unjust and has written to the government, asking that those affected by the Nelson floods receive the same government support as those in North Island regions affected by Cyclone Gabrielle.

He wants to see the accommodation support received in the North Island extended to Nelsonians whose insurance cover for accommodation has finished, financial support to potentially buy out unfixable properties, and assistance with the cost of building back better when it comes to repairing landslips on council land.

"We received good support during the emergency from government but it's frustrating that we are not being provided with the same assistance as other areas of the country for the recovery. My plea is for Nelson to be treated equally."

Nelson City Council's recovery work is ongoing. Smith said it is about a third of the way through the recovery, having spent $24 million to date out of an expected total of $74m, which includes the council landslip remediation work.

In a statement, Finance and Cyclone Recovery Minister Grant Roberston said while the government had been focused on supporting those in the hundreds of homes affected by weather events in the North Island, the National Resilience Plan (NRP) announced in Budget 2023 would look beyond cyclone affected regions.

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