The Government via the Cyclone Taskforce is working with local government and insurance companies to build a picture of high-risk areas following Cyclone Gabrielle and January floods.
“The Taskforce, led by Sir Brian Roche, has been working with insurance companies to undertake an assessment of high-risk areas so we can understand the scale of impact and what this means for re-building,” Grant Robertson said.
“We are making good progress, with the insurance sector agreeing to provide the taskforce with a consolidated view of the areas they have identified as high-risk within the next week. This will then be overlaid with the risk assessments that local councils are carrying out.
“Ministers expect that information to come together in the next three weeks (beginning of April) and will then be in a position to agree on the next steps. We are acutely aware of people’s need for certainty, so it is important we make the right decisions, not the fastest and easiest ones,” Grant Robertson said.
“It’s worth noting that after the Canterbury earthquakes it was four months before decisions were taken on the future of affected areas. We want to move quicker than that, but it gives an indication of some of the challenges to making decisions.
“Each region has been affected differently. The impacts in the Hawkes Bay with the orchards and silt is quite different to the large number of residential houses flooded in Auckland.
“I want the risk assessments completed as fast as possible and I will keep pushing for that to be the case – but the reality is the complexities involved mean it cannot be completed in just a few weeks.
“We also understand that views within a community about the future are not always the same. Some people want to be able rebuild straight away, others are wary about future threats and the resilience of infrastructure,” Grant Robertson said.
“This is why it is important the local community is part of the decision making process and are kept informed all the way through. I have asked the Cyclone Recovery Unit to work closely with local government and recovery agencies to ensure that we are making information available in a timely and clear manner. Again how this is done will be different in each community, but we know we need to give regular updates, and opportunities for input.
“It is important at this time to highlight some issues that can cause confusion or stress. First, having a red or yellow sticker on your property does not necessarily mean that a location will be deemed high-risk or that the land can’t be rebuilt upon. These are assessments of immediate safety risk at the location, not future risk of flooding or viability of the land.
“That means we can’t simply use that assessment for this process, we’d get the wrong answers for affected people and property. That’s why we are working with the insurance sector and local councils to get the best outcome,” Grant Robertson said.
“Second, there are a range of potential responses to the assessments that we do arrive at. Managed retreat (i.e. not rebuilding in the area) is one possibility, but so are other resilience measures, including building or enhancing stopbanks, changing the structure or location of buildings or building in a different way.
“Communities should rest assured that we are moving as quickly as we can. We have to get this right for the people and businesses involved so we will ensure the process is careful and thorough and is always done with the needs of local communities in mind,” Grant Robertson said.