1 Dec 2023

Mark Mitchell 'to commit to supporting' cyclone-hit regions ahead of visit

5:22 am on 1 December 2023
Flood damage at Kerry Goldfinch's house in Pakowhai.

File photo. A flood-damaged house in Pakowhai, Hawke's Bay. Photo: RNZ / Soumya Bhamidipati

In his first week on the job, new Emergency Management and Recovery Minister Mark Mitchell is visiting cyclone and flood-ravaged regions to hear what they need from the government.

Mayors in Hawke's Bay and Tairāwhiti told RNZ on Tuesday they wanted Mitchell to board a plane and see for himself the mountain of work that still lay ahead following Cyclone Gabrielle.

Mitchell confirmed he would meet with mayors and other leaders in Gisborne on Friday, Hawke's Bay next week, and Auckland and Northland the week after.

But he stopped short of granting some of their Christmas wishes, like money for removing silt and debris in Hastings, or fixing local roads in Wairoa.

"Of course we're going to commit to supporting them, but this is the whole purpose of me getting out there and getting on the ground, and meeting the mayors, so I can get a very clear picture of what the support they need is, and then coming back here and working out how we put that together."

Mark Mitchell

Emergency Management and Recovery Minister Mark Mitchell says his focus will be on speeding up the recovery. Photo: RNZ / Sam Rillstone

The National Party campaigned on speeding up the recovery, and Mitchell said that would be his focus.

"I visited Wairoa initially when the cyclone came through, I was back there a few weeks later trying to organise some aid into Wairoa ... there were still people waiting for silt to be removed.

"Those sort of things we have to get better at in terms of being able to make sure there's a much faster response."

The government would keep its pre-election promise of establishing a cyclone and flood recovery ombudsman, Mitchell confirmed - and he was hashing out how to best set that up.

On the campaign trail, National said the new ombudsman would have the power to review government decisions and issue rulings and recommendations when they believed property owners had not been treated fairly.

Cyclone and flood-affected communities were under "enormous pressure", and Mitchell's job was to ensure the government did right by them, he said.

In the government's plan for its 100 days announced this week, two of the 49 items related directly to cyclone and flood recovery:

  • Meet with councils and communities to establish regional requirements for recovery from Cyclone Gabrielle and other recent major flooding events
  • Make any additional Orders in Council needed to speed up cyclone and flood recovery efforts
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