24 Aug 2023

Flood, cyclone recovery work: Auckland Council backs $2b funding deal with govt

5:00 pm on 24 August 2023
Landslides during the Auckland Anniversary Weekend floods blocked roads and damaged homes and water infrastructure.

Landslides during the Auckland Anniversary Weekend floods blocked roads and damaged homes and water infrastructure. Photo: Stuff / Abigail Dougherty via LDR

Auckland Council has unanimously voted to share costs with the government to fund more than $2 billion of flood recovery and resilience works, pending consultation.

The governing body discussed the move in a confidential part of today's council meeting.

The deal includes $774 million to purchase an estimated 700 residential properties made uninhabitable by the storms.

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown has described the deal as the right thing to do. He said while the negotiation process took time it had resulted in a much better deal for Auckland.

"It's really the culmination of a long and complicated negotiation with the government.

"Dreadful things happened, we had the storm. It's left a lot of people in a very difficult situation, wondering what is going to happen next."

The deal also includes $390m for recovery costs to the transport network, and $820m to fund projects that will build resilience against future flood events.

The Crown will contribute $877m from the National Resilience Plan and Auckland Council has applied for further funding to help to restore the transport network.

It would bring the total Crown funding Auckland could receive to just over $1b.

Minister for Cyclone Recovery Grant Robertson said $387m would support the council to purchase Category Three residential properties, which was 50 percent of the net cost.

It was the same agreement offered to Gisborne and Hawke's Bay councils, he said.

Robertson said the government was also contributing $380m for flood protection works to mitigate the flood risk to the Category Two damaged areas.

Aucklanders to get a say on $900m spend

Deputy mayor Desley Simpson said it was a positive the government was contributing to the flood protection work and transport funding with the government paying 62 percent and 79 percent respectively.

While the council had initially maintained the government would need to pay 100 percent for the buyout of properties, Simpson believed the two parties had come up with a financial solution that had a similar result.

All up, the council's share was $908m and it would need to talk to Aucklanders about where such a large amount of money would come from under "a fast-track consultation process".

It would probably take place for two weeks next month.

One option was to take on more debt which could be drawn on over the next five to seven years and the council would be able to remain within its upper limits.

Simpson expected the buyout process for category three homeowners would begin in late October, however, she was unsure that all the 700 homeowners would hear from the council before Christmas.

"I'm not in a position at the moment to guarantee anything, staff are working on it."

Appeal for speedier process

Earlier today, a group of storm-affected Auckland residents addressed council with a list of ways it could help in recovery efforts.

The Titirangi / Green Bay / Huia Stickered Residents' Group spoke to the governing body about shared experiences following storm events in early 2023.

Group member Hugh Douglas asked council to hasten its response for those still living with the effects of the storms.

"Would you speed up the categorisation process, this is crucial," he said.

"We understand you have got budgetary restraints, and we know that teams are working as fast as they can, but please, increase resources short term to reach more people faster."

Council should prioritise those still not living in their own homes, and those most at risk, Douglas said.

His property suffered major landslides during the storms. He said council needed to think about the ongoing impact climate change had on the city.

"Climate change is intensifying effects on our environment and is a fact of life, flooding at sea level and land movement are increasing," he said.

"People are living in council consented houses, but city rules and infrastructure were not built for this sort of impact."

Another member said the stickered residents' group was prepared to collaborate with council to help the community.

"We'll help with simple local fixes with the guidance from council and Auckland Transport, and we'll work constructively in real engagement processes," she said.

She asked council to proactively involve the group in long term recovery efforts like managed retreat processes, as well as in consultation for the council's Long Term Plan.

Waitākere Ward Councillor Shane Henderson said he understood the anxieties of those hit hard by the severe weather events.

"We know the trauma, I know whenever it rains hard, I'm up, and I know a lot of us are," he said.

"You have correctly pointed out that there's a hell of a lot more work to do."

Flood advocacy group wants public collaboration

Advocacy group West Auckland is Flooding said council should work collaboratively with residents when preparing for flooding.

Group chairperson Lyall Carter said council should view the community's desire to get involved in recovery efforts as an asset.

"There is a real opportunity for the council to act bravely, and to act strategically in working with community to better prepare for flooding events," he said.

Carter said flood mitigation should be a strategic focus of council.

"Once the categorisation process is finished, there are going to be more homes and families left behind," he said.

"What really matters strategically, and for the future, is flood mitigation practices."

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