Local Government Minister and East Coast MP Anne Tolley is adamant work is being done to help residents in a potentially deadly flood zone.
Dozens of buildings in Matata were badly damaged in May 2005 when torrential rain washed boulders, logs and other debris down a flooded stream.
Whakatāne District Council says people could be killed if such a disaster happened again and is pleading for help to get the town's residents out of homes in the flood zone.
It wants the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to acquire 34 properties.
Ms Tolley said the district council was working through a plan and had spent a lot of time and money investigating the possibility of mitigation.
"In the meantime it unfortunately allowed ... people to rebuild their houses."
Some residents were prepared to be bought out and leave, and some had lived there all their lives and wanted to take the risk and stay.
As the local MP she had met with local residents, whose relationship with the council had been "rather fragile".
"I've been trying to get answers to questions for them and push the process along, so that they can get some closure, and make sure that those people who do decide they want to take the risk and want to stay there aren't going to be bulldozed out."
Ms Tolley said the council could not afford to pay for a "managed withdrawal" and was putting its case to the regional council and government.
'We did everything legally and got the OK to build'
Locals told Checkpoint with John Campbell they were furious at being asked to leave 12 years later.
Marilyn said she rebuilt a bigger home in Matata two years after the flood because she was told the flood risk would be mitigated.
"We did everything legally and got the OK to build because they were going to mitigate the risk."
She said she would have gone then if someone had asked her to, and paid her out accordingly.
"We wouldn't have sunk all our money back into this if we knew this was where it was going to end.
"We wouldn't have laid concrete and landscaped and cleaned up council's stuff that they didn't do.
"I've had 12 years of stress ... I'm not the only one. We've had properties that have sold and new people moved in - how do you think they feel?"
Michele Beach, whose home was damaged in 2005, was also upset it had taken so long for the council to act.
"They've spent millions on expensive reports ... and they've never done any of it."
Ms Beach bought a house elsewhere in the town, but many of her neighbours rebuilt because they thought there would be a debris catchment system, she said.
"They will pay me $200,000 they've offered - which is what the section is apparently valued at back in 2004."
Deputy mayor Judy Turner said the council at first believed mitigation schemes would work but in 2012 was told a debris net would not make the homes sufficiently safe.
Ms Turner said the regional council had the power to force residents to leave but had shown no interest in doing so.
A change to the District Plan would be needed to force residents to leave their homes, but the district council and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council have yet to begin the process.
Ms Turner said the district council did not have the money to pay people to get out, and the regional council and central government should help.
Regional council chairperson Doug Leeder it was the district council which had to submit a request for a private plan change that would then go before a hearings panel.
It hadn't yet received a request but he expected a request was "imminent".
The regional council would set up a hearing at which commissioners would listen to residents submissions and make a determination.