• Video: Hastings District Councillor says Council needs more information to make wise decision about Category 3 property demolition costs

Video: Hastings District Councillor says Council needs more information to make wise decision about Category 3 property demolition costs

The Hastings District Council needs more information to make a wise decision on whether Cyclone category 3 property owners should be liable to pay some of the costs for demolishing their homes, says Councillor Simon Nixon.

At a Council meeting yesterday, a full council decided unanimously that it needed more information to make a decision on a proposal prepared by council officials that Category 3 property owners pay some of the costs for demolishing their homes. This comes after the council said the owners were not liable for the costs. The previous Government decided not to contribute to demolition costs as part of its Cost Share Agreement with Council, so demolition and other residential improvements falls on the Councils. The new Government has not indicated that it will change this decision.

The proposal was contained in a report presented to the Council yesterday. The Napier City Council will also hear a similar proposal at a later council meeting.

In a joint statement this week, the Hastings District Council and the Napier City Council said they were considering a change to the Cyclone Gabrielle Category 3 Buy-out Policy to “fix an anomaly”.

The report prepared for Hastings District Council says that in total, demolition costs are likely to exceed $6 million.

After hearing a presentation from Dan Gale, a spokesperson for Category Three property owners, and after robust debate on the subject, the council decided to “leave a decision on the table”.

Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst proposed the motion which was seconded by Councillor Simon Nixon.

Speaking to Hawke’s Bay App today, Nixon said he had felt “ambushed” by the proposal presented to the Council.

“This is because we'd just come back from the Christmas break. This was our first council meeting for the year, and suddenly we had a very complicated proposal put in front of us, and it was backed up with a workshop a bit earlier in the day. But I still felt we didn't really have all the information we needed to make a wise decision.”

“The issue here is that whilst some people may have done very well out of it, which is what the background paper suggested, the concern is a lot of people are struggling out there and that needed to be taken into account in our deliberation.”

At yesterday’s meeting Council officers had earlier attempted to answer questions from councillors about the proposal.

Debate raged with some councillors saying that the situation of the affected property owners needed to be weighed against the plight of Hastings ratepayers who were struggling through the cost of living crisis.

The Council also heard from Dan Gale, the owner of the cyclone-damage Eskdale Holiday Park, who said that Category Three property owners are disgusted at a “flawed and unfair” policy that could see them liable for some of the cost for demolishing their homes.

He said that the community has been blindsided, “having been told throughout the whole process that these demolitions costs would be covered by council”.

Today Nixon said he had found Gale’s testimony very influencing.

“I went in there with a pretty open mind. I couldn't really quite decide how I was going to approach the issue. But after I heard Dan, I felt that he had some very good points, but we had not addressed these in the material that we'd been given.”

“And whereas some people may be double dipping, and I accept that's a possibility and I certainly don't want to impose unnecessary costs on rate payers.”

“By the same token, there are a lot of people who are on the edge that they're probably still paying their mortgages off, they're now having to pay rent, they don't have a house for the moment. And I felt it didn't have enough flexibility in it to address those issues,” says Nixon.

He says that he would like a more flexible policy that “if there is clear evidence that some people are doing very well out of it and they are insured for demolition that they have to contribute towards it”.

“But for others who are really been in this wilderness for a year now, it's almost a year since the cyclone went through, I just want more flexibility, greater understanding of their situation so that we don't create an even worse situation for them. I mean people must be under extreme stress at the moment.”

At yesterday’s Council meeting Gale said there were a couple of solutions, including asking the new government to pay the costs or ask the Red Cross to use what he said is $3.5million it has collected for this cost.

Nixon said he would like to explore the Red Cross option.

“At one stage, Dan did mention the Red Cross still have a significant amount of money that they haven't shared out, and I just wonder if that is one of the options we could look at. After all the money was contributed for the very purpose of helping people that had been badly affected by the cyclone.”

He said he wanted to make “absolutely sure we are not making the situation worse for some people and leaving them almost impoverished.”

 Watch the accompanying video to see the full interview with Simon Nixon.