10 May 2024

Council wants homeowners to make properties flood-safe but at own cost

8:11 pm on 10 May 2024

Auckland Council is urging flood affected homeowners to do their bit to future-proof the city against further flooding.

Council officers are visiting homes to identify major flood risks like roofs without spouting and blocked drains.

But while they are offering up their services to check houses, they are not offering any cash to help homeowners make these changes.

On the night of the Auckland Anniversary floods last year, a torrent of water flowed through Elaine and Greg Exler's West Auckland home.

Elaine said it took garden furniture, bikes, and belongings with it and seeped into the house.

"Very horrific, it was devastating, it's soul destroying when you're home, you know your asset that you've worked so hard for gets destroyed yet again."

Their home was on three overland flow paths which meant when there was heavy rain, excess water from properties higher up streamed into their backyard.

Sick of sleepless nights, the couple decided to make some changes.

They have lowered their driveway, fixed spouting on the roof, cleared their drains and added a trench and grate to their fence for water to flow through diverting it away from their house.

Elaine and Greg Exler sit on chairs holding hands and Elaine is holding their small dog.

Water flowed through Elaine and Greg Exler's West Auckland home on the night of the Auckland Anniversary floods. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

On Friday, Auckland Council and Mayor Wayne Brown were looking at their changes.

The council has visited 1300 other properties affected by last year's floods and wants them to look at similar ways they can keep their properties safe.

Auckland Council head of sustainable outcomes Tom Mansell said there were many things people could do to make sure their home was not in the path of a torrent of water.

"Fences are probably the biggest issue, those boarded fences, and it could be as little as just having gaps in that fence, also outhouses, garden sheds are classic to put in the overland flow path and it's just logic you'll see where the water flows and you want to keep it going unobstructed."

Of the 1300 homes the council has looked at, 30 to 40 percent of owners have been voluntarily compliant.

Compliance manager Adrian Wilson said while the council was aiming for an "educate first, enforce second" approach there could be consequences for homeowners not making changes.

"You could be issued a bill or notice requiring you to carry out some action, or, depending on the particular breach... you could get an abatement, for instance in order to do the work."

Compliance Manager Adrian Wilson stands in the middle of a street holding documents.

Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Fourteen notices to fix have been issued under the Building Act and 30 abatement notices under the RMA and Auckland Unitary Plan.

The Exler's have spent over $150,000 making these changes but their insurance and other funds have dried up and they have not even made a start on the inside of their home yet.

They said the council could not expect people to fork out the cash to make these changes and they should provide some funding.

"It is council's responsibility to make sure this doesn't happen. These are people's homes that we're talking about you know, this is our livelihood."

But Mayor Wayne Brown said there was no money in the budget for that.

"We're already struggling with paying for the damage last time as it is."

Of the 2812 properties that have registered for Auckland Council's categorisation scheme, less than half of them have been categorised more than a year since the Auckland Anniversary floods.

The mayor maintained he was happy with progress.

"It's a very generous offer - we didn't even have to do it - and so we are doing that pretty quickly."

For now, the council was keeping up its message asking homeowners to do what they could in the present, to protect their homes for the future.

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