28 Feb 2023

Watch: PM Chris Hipkins speaks after series of damaging weather events in Auckland

3:14 pm on 28 February 2023

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says his comments on crime in Hawke's Bay after Cyclone Gabrielle were because he was receiving out-of-date information from police.

Hipkins had continually downplayed claims of a crime spike, despite road workers telling police they had guns pulled on them.

He said he would have preferred if the information he was receiving from police had not been dated.

"I regret that the police person that was giving that information was obviously out of date with what had happened on the ground there, he told a news conference in Auckland today.

"I would have preferred to have had more up to date information, but I'm absolutely confident on the advice police are giving us now."

Hipkins' visit to the flood-hit city came as more evacuations took place on the East Coast, with heavy rain flooding parts of Hawke's Bay and Gisborne this morning.

Overnight rain in cyclone-affected areas had resulted in about 15 families ending up in an emergency space overnight, he confirmed.

Hipkins said he had not heard of any significant increase in Covid-19 among isolated communities in the region.

"The feedback that we've had so far is that we are not dealing with a significant increase in Covid-19 cases on the East Coast, but of course that is something that we'll keep an eye on," he said.

However, he advised those handling silt and other flood debris to follow health advice to avoid illness.

"We are concerned about some of the potential health issues associated with the clean-up and pretty good guidance has been issued around what people should do to keep themselves safe when cleaning up. Use of PPE and so on," he said.

"I'd just ask people to make sure they are following that guidance."

Recovery crews were working hard out to fix roads and other infrastructure in affected regions, but workers were restricted by the fact the ground needed to dry, Hipkins said.

Regarding the possibility of managed retreat for some properties hit by the recent flooding, Hipkins said the government was working through the process of assessments.

"We just have to work through a process where decisions that we take around managed retreat - whether any properties should be bought out and those sorts of things - we need to make sure we're doing that based on a really clear evidence base and we've got a really clear criteria for the decisions that we're making," he said.

"After the Canterbury earthquakes it took several months to work through that process and we have to recognise to some extent there is a different degree of complexity associated with this one...

"In the case of flooding there are other things that can be done. Extra flood protection can be put in place."

Hipkins drew particularly attention to Auckland's Muriwai community, who were dealing with the loss of two firefighters who died during the Cyclone Gabrielle emergency response, as well as the trauma of leaving their red-stickered homes, and now a lack of certainty on the future of the settlement itself.

The government was working to make a decision around the future of the community as quickly as possible, he said.

"There is still a lot of uncertainty around what the safe thing to do is for that community is.

"We've got geologists in there now. We were shown around the community by geologists who were doing as much work as they can, as quickly as they can, to understand what's going on with the land.

"The land is still moving - every time there is more rain, more land comes down. They will give us advice on what the right thing for that community is."