Mike Brown inside all that remains of he and wife Sue’s home in Pakowhai. Photo / Paul Taylor
Sue Brown says she has learned “diddly squat” about whether she can still live in Pakowhai.
Monday’s announcement by Cyclone Recovery Minister Grant Robertson that there will be three categories of risk assessment for future residential properties in flood-affected areas gave something of a framework.
But the hard decisions are still potentially a long way off, and Brown feels little the wiser about her future.
Her and husband Mike were rescued from the roof of their home, when flood water from the Tutaekuri and Ngaruroro rivers engulfed the settlement on February 14.
All the Browns want to do – whether in Pakowhai or not – is get on with their lives. But Sue feels that’s impossible at the moment, and says there’s minimal direction coming from central and local government.
Robertson revealed there would be low, managed and high-risk criteria to decide on land use in areas such as Pakowhai, but what that actually means and when there will be decisions on who’s in which category continue to be unclear.
“I needed answers six weeks ago, if not eight weeks ago,’’ Brown said.
“This is just dragging on and on and, if they take another four weeks to do it – I tell you what – it does drive you a little insane not knowing.”
Brown fears she will fall into the managed-risk category, which would only add more uncertainty.
If you’re low risk, you’re fine. If you’re high-risk, you’re not.
But if you’re classified managed risk, which could be the case for many in Pakowhai, “then they’re going to put the onus back on us as owners,” said Brown.
“I would say they’re going to basically make everyone in that managed category make their minds up if they’re going to stay.
“I mean, don’t get me wrong, I want to rebuild and I want to live there, but if I can’t get insurance that causes issues as well. The council needs to step up or the Government needs to step up and say either you can rebuild or you can’t rebuild.:
Robertson defended the lack of clarity, saying on Tuesday that decisions of this magnitude couldn’t be rushed.
“I’m very wary of putting out information that we can’t stand by,” Robertson said.
“I absolutely understand the desire for certainty that everybody has, but I also don’t want to mislead people.”
Robertson added that he hoped to have more definitive information by the end of May “but I’m just wary of committing to that when there are so many moving parts”.
Brown appreciates it is a complicated and delicate process, but questioned whether revealing risk categories that left residents with more questions than others was a good strategy.
“It doesn’t make things any better,” she said.
The low-risk category is where repair to the previous state is all that is required to manage future severe weather event risk. This means that once any flood protection near the property is repaired, the home can be rebuilt at the same site.
Managed risk involves community or property-level interventions that will manage future severe weather event risk. This could include the raising of nearby stop banks, improving drainage or raising the property
Lastly, areas in the high-risk category are not safe to live in because of the unacceptable risk of future flooding and loss of life. Homes in these areas should not be rebuilt on their current sites.
Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said community input must be comprehensive and meaningful but residents still had “no idea” when this would occur or how effective it could be.
Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise said residents were “desperate” for information.
“And its information we can’t give them until Government makes its decisions, and the longer that process takes the more distressing it is for those living in limbo.”
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council chairwoman Hinewai Ormsby said there would be difficult discussions for those areas in the middle category.
“We want people to be safe in their homes, but the big challenge may be money. We want central government to invest alongside the region in strengthening and building our stop banks back better.
“If we aren’t supported to rebuild our flood protection systems better, then the reality is we won’t have enough money and the risk of Cyclone Gabrielle 2.0 is even greater.”
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