Muriwai homes demolished, relocated as storm recovery wraps up

6:29 pm on 19 April 2024
Slips at Muriwai following Cyclone Gabrielle.

Muriwai was hit hard by slips during Cyclone Gabrielle. Photo: RNZ / Finn Blackwell

More than 60 Muriwai homes are being pulled apart as Auckland Council moves into the final stages of storm recovery.

More than a year after Cyclone Gabrielle rendered them uninhabitable, the first batch of homes purchased by Auckland Council under the category 3 buyout scheme are being demolished, deconstructed or relocated.

Muriwai Stickered Residents Group chairperson Mike Hibbert said it was an emotional time, as residents reflected on the trauma of the storm.

"Families seeing their houses being demolished or removed is obviously pretty intense," he said.

"When you're confronted with your house of, say, 30 years being deconstructed ... you're back there living it all over again."

Auckland Council's deputy group recovery manager Mace Ward said the removal of the homes would have an enormous impact on the tight-knit community.

"This is a small community of 1400 people, and over 60 homes will no longer be in this community," he said.

"Sixty families won't be here any longer."

Mike Hibbert said many would be forced to move.

"It's a small community with a small number of houses available for sale," he said.

"People are making those big life decisions. They're thinking [about moving] to the east coast or somewhere else closer to town. It's really hard on the community. It's horrible to say goodbye."

Though some homes would be demolished, Ward said the wrecking ball was a last resort.

"Where we can, the first priority is to see if we can relocate a home in total," he said.

"The next best outcome is to deconstruct the materials for reuse, and the final option is a demolition."

Among the companies working with the council on deconstruction was the Trow Group, founded by Saia Latu.

He said it was important to treat each house with respect.

"Before we start any of these projects we have a karakia," he said.

"Each house has a story, kids grew up, grandparents come here for holidays ... there's a lot to consider when doing what we do. We always look at it like it's our own home."

Latu's team was deconstructing a house on Domain Crescent, which was hit by a slip during the cyclone.

He said the previous owners left a lot of memories behind.

"They didn't have a lot of time to get the stuff out, they just ran," he said.

"We had the owners come through. They spent the three days we were deconstructing moving stuff. They recovered jewellery, taonga, a passport ... There was a car that was underneath [the slip] as well."

The house would be gone in a matter of weeks, but its materials - the timber, the concrete and the glass - would be recycled and reused.

"The reason why we deconstruct it in such a way is so they might have some comfort knowing their home that they lived in isn't just being smashed," he said.

"The timber, it's beautiful timber. Why would you throw that away? The price of materials in New Zealand are through the roof."

Ward hoped the council would find some use for the land, too.

"It'll be on a case-by-case basis, but in this case for future safety it will never be built on again," he said.

"This is a rural community so a wastewater treatment system might go on that land ... or a garage."

He hoped residents would feel a sense of closure after 15 months of uncertainty.

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