11 Sep 2015

Whanganui's forgotten flood victims

5:12 am on 11 September 2015

Owners of red-stickered homes in the hillside suburbs of Whanganui fear they are becoming the forgotten victims of June's record floods.

About 20 homes affected by slips and subsidence are off-limits and their owners feel they are being left in limbo while they wait on EQC reports and resolve insurance wrangles.

Nichola and Mark Goodier are unable to return to their Bastia Hill home and are becoming frustrated with delays in dealing with EQC.

Nichola and Mark Goodier are unable to return to their Bastia Hill home and are becoming frustrated with delays in dealing with EQC. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

While it is almost business as normal on Taupo Quay in the Whanganui CBD, and builders are busy repairing the 120 flood-damage homes on Anzac Parade, it was a different story on Bastia Hill.

Nichola and Mark Goodier were looking to sell their Shakespeare Road home before the rains came, but now it has been declared uninhabitable, and there was a gaping hole where part of their section used to be.

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Mark Goodier has lost a huge chunk of his section. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

"What you can see is a big, large chunk of our section and driveway that's gone off down the hill. The ground has fallen away from under the edge of the garage and all the way along the entire length of the section. We've probably lost a strip about 40m long by 5m wide."

Mr Goodier said the initial response to the emergency was fantastic, but now he felt they had been left to fend for themselves.

"Obviously since the first few days and once we'd been red-stickered so we couldn't be in the property, pretty much since then, we do feel like we've been forgotten about in the town."

The Goodiers were still waiting on an EQC report which would have to be assessed by the council before they could even go to their insurers.

Mark Goodier

The Goodiers at their Shakespeare Road property. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

In the meantime they can do nothing and Mr Goodier, who was a builder by trade, said he tried not to think about the financial hit he knew was coming their way.

EQC covers natural disaster damage to homes up to $100,000, contents up to $20,000 and a defined area of residential land.

Residential land is defined as the land on which the house is situated, and land within 8m of the house or outbuildings such as a garages or storage sheds.

Land within 60m of the house that constitutes, supports or was part of the main access way to the house is also covered.

Three separate slips have encroached on Val Southcombe's Mount View Road home and she said dealing with the merry-go-round of insurance brokers, EQC and the council had been exhausting.

"It's stressful for me because, you know, I'm older and I just want to enjoy life. I'm wasting that little bit of life I have left. I'm 74 and I just have to hang in there. Luckily I've got a lot of lovely friends."

Mrs Southcombe was worried about how she would be able to pay any shortfall on what may be required to make her home habitable again.

Over at Durie Hill, Jill Gregory had hoped the rental she owned on Hipango Terrace would pay for her retirement.

Now the 65-year-old fears she may have to walk away from the property after the foundations slumped.

"I just cannot imagine how anybody's going to fix it. You know, when the ground starts going from beneath your foundations and because it's so close to the edge and you can't get machinery around the side of it because it's right on this point.

"At the moment the insurance is paying my rent for me but they only do that up to a certain amount and then I don't know what I'm going to do about the mortgage. I don't know whether I'll just walk away and hand the keys to the bank or what I'm going to do."

If she does forfeit on her mortgage Ms Gregory said she would be giving up $100,000 in equity.

Whanganui mayor Annette Main said she had sympathy for the affected home owners but there was a process that had to be followed.

"The thing that will hold it up is getting those EQC assessments so it is three months on so, you know, one would hope that those would be coming very soon because it is frustrating for those people."

Ms Main said she planned to call a meeting with the residents who had been served with dangerous building notices to update them on progress and to check on their general welfare.

The EQC said it was still accepting claims relating to the June floods until 22 September and is processing 428 of them.

It has resolved 172 of these and paid out about $900,000 on 87 claims it said.

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