• Video: Big relief for Cyclone category three property owners as Hastings District Council decides not to make them pay demolition costs

Video: Big relief for Cyclone category three property owners as Hastings District Council decides not to make them pay demolition costs

There is relief among Cyclone Gabrielle Category Three property owners today after the Hastings District Council narrowly decided they were not liable for the cost of demolishing their homes.

A highly anticipated full Council meeting today saw Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst use a casting vote after councillors were deadlocked at six-all in the moton to change a policy that saw the Council decide last year to carry the cost of the demolition of homes within the district.

Community advocates welcomed the news saying it would bring relief to the property owners.

The issue arose when  Council officials tabled a proposal at a Council meeting on 1 February seeking to overturn a Council decision to bear the costs of the demolition. This would have seen  Category Three property owners be held liable for some of the demolition costs.

Councillors were today asked to vote on whether the policy should be changed to make the property owners liable for some of the demolition costs.

In what some saw as a surprise vote, Hazlehurst decided to stay with the status quo, emphasising that the Cyclone recovery effort, including the buyout proposal, was a 50-50 partnership with the Government. She indicated that she would be seeking Government funding to pay for a $2m shortfall to the $8m demolition costs.

Today Cyclone Gabrielle community advocate Louise Parsons said the council had done the right thing.

“Six of the counsellors did the right thing, six did the wrong thing, but we're going to focus on the positive today because we've saved our community $2 million today. So it's a good result.”

“The rate payer shouldn't be paying for this. It should be centrally funded. Just like the Christchurch earthquake.”

A representative of the property owners, Dan Gale, said: “Once it played out at six all and it was hung, I thought there would be a casting vote that lay with the Mayor and that played out.”

“So it was good that the mayor was in favour of putting the motion aside and meaning that we wouldn't have to contribute to the demo costs for those that have lost so much already.”

“Since the meeting, three or four people messaged me saying, ‘It's a big relief,’. It's one less thing they have to worry about and they can try and just carry on with what they know as a policy and just move on with that.”

Hazlehurst said it was a very difficult decision for the council to make today.

“A very, very close vote and that is not to make any amendment to the buyout policy, that is to remain as it was when we adopted it in October.”

“My reason is that we consulted with our community on a buyout policy back in September, October. They understood what the buyout policy meant and we had gone out to the community and asked their views on the policy. And for me, nothing has changed. This is a partnership between our council, our rate payers, and the Crown.”

The vote, by show of hands, saw the 12 member council split six all. For the first time in her seven years as Mayor, Hazlehurst had to make the deciding vote, which was to keep the original policy as is.

After the vote Hazlehurst said that her “biggest concern is that this, right from the beginning through our negotiations with the Crown, is a partnership”.

“Our partnership means a partnership with the Crown. That is how we collect and distribute and sort out the silt and the debris. How we repair our bridges and our roading network and our transport network at enormous costs of $800 million. And how we manage our share of the $50 million for the Voluntary Buyout with the Crown.”

She said that she had sent a letter to Prime Minister Christopher Luxon “for him to understand what this means for us, for our people and our recovery, and the voluntary buyout is one part of our journey and our recovery”.

“We're on a long road with the Crown for our region to recover. Our intention, our objectives, and our principles under the policy in October were to ensure that we got through this recovery and brought our people with us. I thank everybody for their submissions and I thank everybody for sharing their views.”

The Napier City Council, unlike the Hastings District Council, has not prepared a report containing a proposal to make Cyclone Gabrielle Category 3 property owners liable for demolition costs. 

A Council spokesperson told Hawke’s Bay App that the issue would probably be heard by the Napier City Council in March, but this still needed to be confirmed.

Watch the accompanying video to see how today's Hastings District Council meeting unfolded.