• Video: Hastings Mayor asks Prime Minister for government help in paying for demolition costs of Cyclone Gabrielle Category Three properties

Video: Hastings Mayor asks Prime Minister for government help in paying for demolition costs of Cyclone Gabrielle Category Three properties

The Hastings Mayor has asked both the Prime Minister and Finance Minister for government help in paying for demolition costs of Cyclone Gabrielle Category Three properties.

Sandra Hazlehurst told Hawke’s Bay App today that she asked Prime Minister Christopher for assistance when he attended a Cyclone Gabrielle Volunteer Appreciation Day in Hastings on Sunday. She also raised the matter with Finance Minister Nicola Willis when she visited Hawke’s Bay today.

The issue at hand is an announcement by the Hastings District Council and the Napier City Council last month that they were considering a change to the Cyclone Gabrielle Category 3 Buy-out Policy to “fix an anomaly”.

Hastings Council officials then presented the proposal to a full Council meeting earlier this month that Cyclone Category Three property owners be liable for some of the costs of demolishing their homes. This is after the Council had originally agreed to cover the costs. The Government decided not to contribute to demolition costs as part of its Cost Share Agreement with Councils, so demolition and other residential improvements falls on the Councils.

In an emotional presentation to the Council meeting, Dan Gale, a representative of some of the property owners, said that the owners are disgusted at a “flawed and unfair” policy.

He said that the community has been blindsided, “having been told throughout the whole process that these demolitions costs would be covered by council”. Councillors decided to leave the proposal on the table, requesting more information from officials. Hazlehurst said at the meeting that she would be raising the issue with Willis when she was in town. 

Since then Council officials have consulted property owners and submitted a new proposal that will be heard by the Council at a meeting next Tuesday.

Hazlehurst told Hawke’s Bay App today that she met with Luxon on Sunday and he “heard the community's views”.

“And I've sent a letter to the Prime Minister seeking help for this, because nobody addressed the demolition costs when we had the government package last year. And the demolition costs could be up to $8 million and nobody addressed them at the time.”

“So I have gone back now because this is a partnership with the Crown, this is a partnership, this buyout, 50 million each as set up by the previous government, and I don't think it's right and fair that just one party should be recovering the cost for demolition.”

Hazlehurst said she had requested “$2 million in contribution”.

She said she had raised the matter with Willis and Tukituki MP Catherine Wedd today and they “are aware of our request”.

In response to Hazlehurst’s email, Gale said that it was a good development as he did not see why it “should be lumped on a small, narrow group of people when it could be spread across a massive amount? I mean, these people are hurting like Hell”.

“A lot of them are retired, either very close to retired or elderly, like 20 grand equals a pension, an entire year's pension. That's a big deal.”

Earlier Gale said that he had asked twice if he could address councillors at the workshop they had held on the proposal, but he was told he could not.

“I only had the same opportunity as everybody else to put in a written submission. I didn't get the opportunity to attend the workshop to put across in more detail our point of view, basically. ”

Asked what he thought of the revised proposal drawn up by officials (https://cdn.hbapp.co.nz/news/news/video-new-cyclone-gabrielle-demolition-costs-proposal-to-go-before-council-after-consultation) Gale said “it's a good start?”

“Well, it's hard to tell because we're just looking at all this at the moment. In the matrix that covers off a lot of the themes that a lot of them came from our family and yeah, I don't know whether the councillors read all submissions or not, or whether the council gate kept them before getting there.”

Asked what he was expecting from next week’s meeting, Gale said he felt it could go either way.

“I'll be disappointed if they end up putting their demolition costs onto those who are affected. I'll be very, very disappointed.”

Asked what the property owners’ next step would be, he said: “Well, basically, we'll have to reconvene and get together. One thought is to go to the Ombudsman, and of course we have lawyers sitting there too.”

In the Council’s consultation with affected property owners, Hazlehurst wrote to about 165 property owners asking for feedback and received 22 responses. All the feedback opposed the proposal, which would see the original policy amended, to make property owners liable for some of the demolition costs.

Gale told Hawke's Bay last night that "zero people wanted the policy to change".

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 Dan Gale discuss the original proposal put before the Hastings District Council.