Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Hastings votes to waive demolition contribution

Category 3 homeowners eligible for a voluntary buy-out in the Hastings District will not be charged a contribution toward the cost of demolition, following a Council vote today.

Today’s decision by Hastings District Council required the chair of the meeting, Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst, to make a casting vote, after voting was tied at 6-6.

Following the meeting, Mayor Hazlehurst said it was “absolutely appropriate” that the matter was raised with Council.

“This has been a very difficult decision as you can see from the vote. We must balance the needs of our most affected residents with those of the ratepayers. While Government is providing 50% of the funding for the buy-outs, ratepayers are funding the remaining 50% of the buy-out cost, plus all of the costs of demolition. I can advise that we are continuing discussions with Government on the possibility of a contribution to this cost.”

A request to ensure councillors had full information on the nature of the offers being constructed was made by the Independent Advisory Panel, charged with reviewing each of the offers for quality assurance, assessing recommendations for ‘special circumstances’ applications, and that the objectives and principles of the Category 3 Voluntary Buy-out Policy are adhered to, the Council said in a statement.

Those principles include ensuring fairness for both those directly affected and the general ratepayer. The change in the policy would have seen those receiving an insurance payout and a Council offer for their land or relocation grant that together exceed the assessed market value of the property (as at February 13, 2023), and those who were uninsured, make a contribution towards the cost of demolition.

Of the 160 eligible property owners, 23 submissions were received – all opposed to the change to the policy.

Mayor Hazlehurst asked that the reasons for the decision be recorded. They included that
“Hastings District’s recovery from Cyclone Gabrielle is a partnership of Council, our Hastings communities and the Crown. It is a long journey that will take five years or more.

“The principles of the Voluntary Buy-out Policy, set in 2023, include acting in good faith, treating people with respect, clearly communicating, and delivering outcomes in a timely manner. It was accepted at the time of the Policy development that the costs of demolition would fall on Council.

“Council in its ongoing collaboration with the Crown will seek Crown assistance with the costs of demolition (in the interests of partnership) and accordingly not seek a specific contribution to demolition from affected property owners.

“The objectives and principles of the policy developed based on community consultation in 2023 when an amendment was made to the Long-Term Plan to enable Council to fund the Policy Buy-out process. Council by a majority decision deems that it is most appropriate to remain with the substance of the community consultation.”

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