• Video - Napier Council says officials have not prepared proposal to make Category 3 property owners liable for demolition costs

Video - Napier Council says officials have not prepared proposal to make Category 3 property owners liable for demolition costs

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

This comes as the one year anniversary of the cyclone is set to be commemorated next week.

The HDC faced a backlash from property owners last week when it heard a proposal, prepared by its council officials, that Category 3 property owners should be held liable for some of the costs of demolishing their houses. The Council had previously said it would cover the cost of demolishing.

The proposal prepared for HDC said that in total, demolition costs were likely to exceed $6 million.

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

However, in response to questions from Hawke’s Bay App, a Napier Council spokesperson said no report had been prepared “at this stage”.

However, she said “officials are aware of the issues surrounding demolition and Council will consider how it aligns with HDC decisions on the matter”.

The spokesperson said that only HDC had a prepared a report on this matter at this stage. The Napier City Council spokesperson said that the issue would probably be heard by the Napier City Council in March, but this still needed to be confirmed.

At the HDC meeting last week, 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 Council meeting also heard an emotional presentation from Dan Gale on behalf of Category Three property owners.

Gale, the owner of the cyclone-damage Eskdale Holiday Park, 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”.

“Ultimately, our communities want the contribution to be left out of the policy and are furious at the suggestion that we are benefiting by receiving a full payout.”

“There are no winners in this situation. People are hanging on by a thread. People are suffering with depression, marriage breakups, serious health issues, and suicide due to the stress of the cyclone and this drawn-out process. This could very well tip some over the edge. Is a $2 million saving really worth that?”

At the HDC meeting, Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst proposed the motion which was seconded by Councillor Simon Nixon.

Hazlehurst said that councillors were not in a position to make a decision.

“We need some more information. We've had some facts shared to us. We've had some queries and questions that we need to fully understand and I'm going to leave this item on the table.”

“Questions that have been raised that the officers haven't been able to answer. We need to do some more work on this. We're not going to adopt a policy on the hop and on the fly.”

Hazlehurst said balancing the needs of all was “undoubtedly very difficult and very emotional, and, in fairness to both our most severely impacted residents and our ratepayers who are funding this policy, we will not make this decision without all of the information we need.

“I am acutely aware of the distress our people who have lost their homes are under. But, equally, as raised by councillors in our meeting, I’m also acutely aware that in this cost-of-living crisis we have families and elderly who are struggling to put food on the table. We must take great care to be fair to all parties.”

Nixon told Hawke’s Bay App last week after the meeting that 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.”