2 Feb 2023

Auckland flooding: PM Chris Hipkins announces funding, says 'there's no one-size-fits-all approach'

1:03 pm on 2 February 2023

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says Auckland remains in a local state of emergency and there has been damage to a number of roads.

"The advice remains to avoid non-essential travel and to stay out of floodwaters and away from damaged areas. There are still more severe weather forecasts in areas such as Coromandel, Bay of Plenty and East Cape, with an orange weather warning in effect and more rain is expected here in Auckland."

Hipkins says Enhanced Taskforce Green is being stood up, making available funding from MSD to employ people in affected areas to restore homes and properties.

"Flooding and storm damage in Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty has now been classified as a medium-scale adverse event. Funding of $200,000 has been allocated to the Rural Support Trusts who know their communities and the support that's required to help people through and we know that the recent weather has come on top of what has already been a challenging and wet season for many in the upper North Island."

"I thank everybody for the efforts that they have put in."

Hipkins is holding a media conference after meeting Auckland business leaders over the impact of the flooding crisis in the region.

On claiming insurance, Hipkins says the government will be working closely with the sector, and wants to see as many claims resolved as quickly as possible, "and to make sure that people can just get on with the job of cleaning out the damage so that they can actually start the rebuild process".

However, it can take time to work through areas where there are more complex claims, he says.

He says there are challenges for retail, wholesale, stock loss and underinsurance.

"A complex area for government to step into, so don't want to become an insurer by default because that creates a whole another set of issues so we'll just work our way through those sorts of issues carefully."

Hipkins says the government is also working with the accommodation sector.

"That includes looking at things like motels as a stopgap measure while people's houses get dried out again and so on, we'll work with our accommodation providers, our emergency accommodation providers, the existing ones that we have and we are already I believe working with potential new providers to provide short-term temporary accommodation while we get things sorted."

He says this will mostly be short-term.

"Where they're red-stickered and significant work needs to be done it may be longer ... there's no one-size-fits-all approach here, in some cases people have got other places they can go - they can stay with extended family or can stay with friends.

"We'll work through that on a case-by-case basis."

He says civil defence payments are available now to deal with people's immediate needs.

"Make sure that you're accessing the support that's available right now to get you through and talk to MSD and talk to the other support agencies that might be able to support you through that, including talking to your bank as well."

"Of course government is going to continue to look at how best we can support people whose lives have been turned upside down by the flooding."

He says the funding will help support people on the ground, which includes military, waste contractors, and more.

"The last thing we want is more health hazards emerging because there's a whole lot of waste piling up in areas which creates new problems so we'll make sure that we work together to get as much of that waste out of the way as we can, so that people can then get on with the cleaning-up job."

On the fuel subsidy, he says the challenge is that for families with fixed incomes and fixed travel costs, the subsidy will ease some of the financial pressure on them.

"There is no easy way to target additional support to only a narrow group of people. This provides support to everybody.

"It does have an impact on other areas of inflation like food prices for example, the transport and logistics sector will say that fuel is one of their biggest costs - and they pass that cost on to consumers in the form of higher food prices."

"The advice that we have had is that the reduction in fuel tax is actually anti-inflationary, it actually keeps the inflation rate lower than it would otherwise be if we put those taxes straight back on again.

"Inflation will also have to come down at some point, and that is certainly an area where we are very focused at the moment."

He says local emergency management teams requested the closure of schools which the ministry ordered, and that was reviewed daily and reversed as soon as it was safe for schools return.

"This is always a really difficult balance for the ministry of education, because on the one hand you've got schools who want some certainty about what dates they should plan towards, and parents want to know that too. But on the other hand everybody wants kids back to school as quickly as possible."

He says he's expecting a really good conversation with iwi leaders, as Waitangi weekend and the Iwi Leaders Forum nears. He says he will tell them the government is there to speak and to

"It'll be my first opportunity for me to meet with them as prime minister so it's an opportunity for them to get to know me a little bit."

He says climate change and three waters remain important parts of the government's programme.

On co-governance, he says it's a very broad concept and can mean different things in different contexts.

"When it comes to broader conversations including around three waters, I want to make sure that we're bringing all New Zealanders with us in that conversation."

He says Nanaia Mahuta, who had the local government portfolio taken from her in his Cabinet reshuffle announced on Tuesday, had "two conflicting roles".

"One as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and one as minister of local government, both of which require extensive travel and extensive engagement - one internationally and one domestically and we'd reached the point where we needed to reconnect more internationally and that's where I want her focus to be."

He says rent controls is not something he's looked in response to the flooding as yet.

Earlier, he told Nine to Noon on Thursday the flooding is probably the biggest weather-related natural disaster the country has ever faced.

"We do have to be prepared for the fact that this isn't going to be solved in the next few days or weeks. It is going to take quite a lot of time," he said, when asked about the scale of the disaster and repair job ahead.

Insurers are bringing in extra staff from overseas and warning it will be years before all claims are settled for flood damaged homes, cars and contents in Auckland.

The Insurance Council said on Wednesday 15,000 claims had been lodged but that was just the start.

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