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‘Long tail of recovery’ expected after March storm

IT could take two or three years for Tairāwhiti to recover from the March storm which devastated the region and resulted in a state of emergency being declared.

Gisborne District Council internal partnerships director James Baty said this in a report to councillors sitting as the Civil Defence Emergency Management Group on Wednesday.

Severe wet weather from March 23 caused extensive flooding across the entire region. A large number of roads were closed, houses were severely damaged and houses and families were evacuated, particularly in Tokomaru Bay and Tolaga Bay.

Mr Baty said the recovery involved the council working in a co-ordinated campaign with multiple agencies, including the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Ministry of Education.

The emergency was “a big hit” and there would be “a long tail of recovery”.

There was much pressure in the recovery work as there were only so many contractors “given the amount of work required”.

“An inordinate amount of work had been done in the roading network but an inordinate amount of work was still required.”

The report said that as at March 31, 50 roads had been closed or reduced to one lane.

Major repairs were required on three bridges.

The continuation of road closures would increase levels of frustration and anxiety, the report said. There were issues of providing supplies to isolated communities and providing access for emergency services and business operations. Many roads required four-wheel drive access.

Councillor Pat Seymour asked about the status of Te Puka Tavern which she described as a significant community facility in Tokomaru Bay.

Mr Baty said it had been closed under the Building Act.

Council principal scientist Dr Murry Cave said a landslide went through the tavern's food storage area and the owners were unable to provide food as required by their liquor licence. The hill behind the tavern needed to be stabilised.

Cr Seymour said there were a small number of farmers capable of getting trucks of metal and filling potholes. What was the position of the council if such maintenance was carried out on isolated but significantly dangerous roads, she asked.

Council director of lifelines David Wilson said only approved staff could do road repairs because of health and safety risks.

Cr Seymour said she understood that was the normal position.

“If we are going to tell the public that nothing will happen to their road for a year, we need to have some options.”

She was looking forward to the matter being discussed by council's operations committee.

Mr Baty said the council was keeping a watching brief on temporary accommodation services through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

“There are still whānau living with other whānau. There may be a time where they may have to look for alternative accommodation.”

The report said that at March 30, two displaced persons required accommodation because road closures prevented them getting home. It was not known how many people made their own accommodation arrangements.

There had been numerous requests for assistance to get food, household goods and medical supplies.

As of March 31 there had been 37 building inspections. Eight section 21s (may not approach building or entry may be restricted) were issued.

Implications for uninhabitable buildings “imply a minimum of 13 families” being impacted.

No one was injured by the weather event but a critical lack of housing in the district remained an issue.

Three schools had been impacted by the weather event, Mr Baty said.

These included Hatea-A-Rangi School, which had only reopened six weeks before the storm after previous storm damage, and Makarika School, which was located in an area with significant silting. Makarika had relocated to Ruatoria.

“There are some big questions for the Ministry of Education in terms of longer-term solutions with schools,” said Mr Baty.

Pākirikiri Marae's wharenui and wharekai roof were damaged.

At Anaura Bay, urupa land surrounds were impacted by the scouring of banks.

Mr Baty said the marae fulfilled a vital community role during the weather event.

Te Puni Kōkiri was working with marae and iwi.

Cr Andy Cranston asked if the council had a supply of sandbags which could be used by the public.

Mr Wilson said some sandbags were held at Fulton Hogan, but the council did not supply the public. Homeowners could buy sandbags from retailers in town.

Mr Baty said recovery funding was available from multiple agencies.

That included $175,000 from central government to an established Gisborne Mayoral Relief Fund, $150,000 from MPI (shared with Hawke's Bay) and $500,000 from the Ministry of Social Development for Gisborne and Wairoa.

The goals of recovery were —

■ Reconnect to the community.

■ Restore the natural environment.

■ Rebuild infrastructure.

■ Regenerate the economy.