Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Rebuilding a brave new Buller

The strength of the people of Buller is being recognised as the district marks the first anniversary of the devastating July 2021 floods.

Heavy rainfall from Thursday 15 July to Sunday 18 July last year caused significant flooding within Westport and across the Buller District, from both the Buller River and the Orowaiti estuary.

The flow breached Westport’s existing flood defences, with 826 properties and more than 2,000 people requiring evacuation. Civil defence welfare centres were set up to support displaced people in need of emergency accommodation.

In the following days, 563 houses were assessed as either red or yellow placarded. The second wave of assessments were completed towards the end of the first week resulting in 71 red placarded homes, 384 yellow and 108 safe to return home. Out of 983 dwellings in Westport town, 23% of the housing stock required repair to make them habitable.

Buller District Council Chief Executive, Sharon Mason said the community still faces many challenges a year on from the July floods.

“Weather events continue to hit the region, such as the high winds and damage this week and of course the February 2022 floods that caused district wide damage,” she said.

“I feel this is an important time to recognise the challenges our community has and continues to face, acknowledge the strength of the community and recognise that people have rallied together to face up to and respond to these challenges.

“There is still stress and anxiety across the community. It is natural and understandable post a natural hazard event as evidenced following the Christchurch earthquakes. The Buller Flood Recovery team, working with local NGO’s, has put together a lot of community supports that I hope people are aware of such as the Community Hub and Navigators. Those services have already helped over 2,000 people and continue to offer support.”

“The co-investment Business Case for Westport flood resilience put together in partnership with the West Coast Regional Council and Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Waewae at the request of the Minister of Local Government Hon Nanaia Mahuta has been submitted to central government, and it may be months before we know the outcome of the business case.

Ms Mason said the case for co-investment outlines a multi-tool approach including physical defence structures, adaptation measures such as enabling growth in areas outside of the flood hazard zone and appropriate standards for development in hazard-prone areas, as well as increasing Buller’s resilience and preparedness as a community.

“The co-investment Business Case, which brings together the many agencies and entities who have a role to play in flood resilience, is vital in progressing those future flood mitigation measures,” she said.

“Through the partnerships we already have with central government agencies, Council has received $8 million in financial support from Cabinet through National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).”

The funding has supported initial flood recovery efforts following the July 2021 event and enabled the establishment of the Recovery team and support services such as the Community Hub and Navigators, the domestic waste clean-up following the July and February events, and contributed to infrastructure for the temporary accommodation village, said Ms Mason.

An additional funding package has been received to fund repairs to key infrastructure such as the port and Three Waters.

“Flood repairs have been getting completed, with more than 100 red and yellow stickered homes registering their completed repairs with Council. This is great to see and an important part of being able to move forward for homeowners,” she said.

“After the floods, the Temporary Accommodations Service helped 267 families and individuals find somewhere to stay including motels, caravans and cabins on their own properties. That number is down to 41 as progress is made towards longer-term solutions. People are now living in the eight temporary homes on Queen and Stafford streets and progress is being made in the construction of 20 homes in the Alma Road temporary village.

“As we reach the first anniversary of the July floods, Buller Council remains committed to supporting our community and supporting the NGO’s who will be providing the ongoing recovery support. There will always be challenges, but our strength lies in facing them together as a united community,” said Ms Mason.

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