Dozens of emergency housing requests after Kaikōura quake

10:19 am on 12 December 2016

The government has received 60 requests for emergency housing following the Kaikōura quake, with the number expected to climb.

A red stickered house in Kaikōura

A red stickered house in Kaikōura. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is responsible under the national civil defence emergency management plan, to find accommodation for those left homeless by a disaster.

It is working with the Ministry of Social Development to assess people's needs and find suitable housing options for them. So far the service has managed to find homes for 22 applicants.

Temporary accommodation service manager Joel Browne said the requests had come from North Canterbury and South Marlborough.

He said the biggest challenge was finding enough places in rural areas where people often needed to remain for work reasons. Kaikōura, for example, only had about 1800 dwellings in total.

"So it's a matter of tapping into that existing supply and seeing what is vacant, and whether that's through real estate agents, holiday homes listings or online channels, but tapping into all resources to see what's vacant and that might suit someone's immediate need," he said.

He said they preferred to house people in the community they lived in. If that was not possible then a mobile home was an option, which is what they were doing now to get people through the Christmas and New Year period.

"And then very early in the New Year we will re-visit that household to see if that particular option is working for them, and if it is, then look at the next steps to see if it's something we should extend or whether a different type of temporary accommodation solution would be needed."

Mr Browne said government funding has been made available to help with the cost of temporary accommodation, but most could expect to pay over and above what they might already be paying on a mortgage.

He said the right insurance cover could help, especially as temporary housing was designed to cover the time it took to repair or rebuild a home.

"It's quite important for people to check with their insurance company about whether they have an insurance policy that has a temporary accommodation entitlement. In addition to that, having a conversation with Work and Income about what sort of support they might be able to provide as well," Mr Browne said.

People are 'nervous and on edge'

Support services are still on-call for those affected by the earthquake.

Parish nurse Rachel Westenra from Marlborough's Awatere Valley said emotional support had been critical for many. She highlighted what was important in times like these.

"Just to feel that they're not on their own, and I know the community feels that - they feel humbled by the amount of support that has come through from New Zealand.

"They just need to know this has been big for the community and it has impacted on a lot of lives, that support is there for them and they are being heard."

Mrs Westenra said her role within a Christian joint venture offered outreach services targeted at the elderly, but it was parents of young children who remained vulnerable.

"There are some really fearful people out there. They are nervous and on edge about what could happen.

"The elderly have been quite resilient and quite calm. It's the poor young mothers - I know how that would feel if you have a young family you know you have to keep safe, and that's where people are feeling a bit fragile," Mrs Westenra said.

Marlborough District Council communications manager Glyn Walters, who had only just moved from Auckland when the quake hit, said there were communities in the district still isolated by the quake.

He said the level of integration among Marlborough's emergency services, and its air force capability, meant the response was world class.

But there were lessons for the whole country to learn, especially around communications.

"What do you do when all of your systems have gone down, and perhaps the last thing standing is police radio, which I think was the case in this scenario. We have to make sure the systems that do work, and have worked for many years - we're able to continue using them and expanding on them if necessary," Mr Walters said.

Information on the temporary accommodation service can be found here.

Lotto boost welcomed in Kaikōura

Kaikōura mayor Winston Gray said the town's quake-damaged swimming pool and skate park could benefit from a nearly $3 million boost from Lotto.

All the profits from Saturday night's Lotto draw will be redirected to quake recovery efforts in the Hurunui District, Marlborough and Kaikōura.

Mr Gray said the damage to the town's swimming pool and skate park hadn't yet been fully assessed, but he thinks they would be worthy things to spend the money on.

Mr Gray said details around how the money would be split, and what it can be spent on, still needed to be worked through.