17 Apr 2017

Emergency housing scheme delayed to focus on cyclone

4:25 pm on 17 April 2017

The government is defending its decision to only now offer Edgecumbe residents emergency housing, more than a week after the flood-stricken town was evacuated.

Some of the worst-affected houses on College Rd, Edgecumbe.

Some of the worst-affected houses on College Rd, Edgecumbe. Photo: RNZ / Zac Fleming

Some of the 900 properties affected in Edgecumbe were expected to be completely uninhabitable, and the government today announced that displaced residents could sign up to a service to connect them with temporary accommodation.

Residents who had been displaced by the floods could register on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website.

The service has previously been used following the Kaikōura and Christchurch earthquakes.

An aerial shot of Edgecumbe on Sunday.

An aerial shot of Edgecumbe on Sunday. Photo: RNZ / Sharon Brettkelly

The lead minister for Edgecumbe Anne Tolley said it was likely the service would be needed given the widespread damage.

"We are still assessing the damage to know how many homes will need to be replaced and how many repaired but it is clear assistance will be required for a significant number of families for temporary accommodation," Mrs Tolley said.

Hotels, baches and holiday homes have all been suggested as places people can stay while their properties are assessed.

Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith said he expected hundreds of people would use the service.

"There is a significant number of matches of temporary accommodation that may be able to be accessed, just as there was in Kaikōura.

    Some of the worst-affected houses on College Rd, Edgecumbe.

Some of the worst-affected houses on College Rd, Edgecumbe. Photo: RNZ / Zac Fleming

"We expect about a third of the homes to require some sort of accommodation support."

However, questions were raised as to why the service was only being announced now, when people had been without homes for over a week.

Dr Smith said the government had considered offering the service last week, before realising the scale of Cyclone Cook.

"The level of concern and focus around Cyclone Cook was such that we wanted to have the focus on ensuring that we're managing our way through that.

"Equally so, to get the staff that are available as of tomorrow based in the eastern Bay [of Plenty] has required us to make the financial decisions and get the resources to get that up and running."

Frustration as assessors delay clean-up

Whakatāne district mayor Tony Bonne said just 14 homes had been red-stickered, but some people faced a further wait before they could get on with the clean up.

"A little bit of a frustration from some people is that some of the insurance assessors haven't given them the all-clear to clean up yet...

"They're saying 'hey, we've got to wait until Tuesday before the assessor can come and and let us through the house'," he said.

However, the Insurance Council said residents could start cleaning up their properties if they took photos of the damage first.

Its chief executive Tim Grafton said assessors were on the ground and had been working all weekend.

Assessors would be looking at structural damage which might restrict access to the worst affected properties, he said.

Meanwhile, volunteers have been working with locals in Edgecumbe to clear properties that were damaged by the flood a week and a half ago.

Clean up: 'emotional'

A volunteer co-ordinator in Edgecumbe said the cleanup job was so huge that as long as people were in the town and willing to help, there would be work for them.

Tourists from overseas were among the 130 volunteers supporting locals in the flooded Whakatane town yesterday, and the same is expected today.

The cleanup is being organised from Ruaihona Marae, and organisers said they were overwhelmed by people's generosity and willingness to help.

Edgecumbe volunteers for Ngāti Awa  Volunteers Army help out at Ruaihona Marae.

Edgecumbe volunteers for Ngāti Awa Volunteers Army help out at Ruaihona Marae. Photo: RNZ / Adriana Weber

One of the co-odinators Sarah Omundsen said volunteers were now into the worst-affected areas, which had been very difficult for some.

"[It's ] really hard work, really smelly work and really emotional work too because residents in some cases have just lost everything," she said.

If people wanted to join the effort, they should register their details on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council website, she said.

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