Despite declaring a climate emergency in 2020, the Labour Government has failed to do anything to improve flood resilience and prepare us for weather-related disasters.
The devastating flood events that occurred in January and February have exposed the poor response and inadequate preparedness of both central government and Auckland Council. The lack of maintenance in roadside catchpits and neglect of urban streams, coupled with delayed decisions and a lack of leadership, have left affected residents in a state of uncertainty and anxiety. As winter approaches, urgent action is required to address the infrastructure issues and provide support to the affected communities.
The West Auckland Is Flooding group (WAIF) has rightly called for the Government’s extended support for insured homeowners who cannot return to their homes due to the ongoing risks associated with the existing land use. The decisions regarding which properties can be reoccupied and which should be red-zoned have been far too delayed and insufficient, leaving residents in limbo. This lack of action and compassion demonstrates a preference for listening to officials rather than the people who are in desperate need of help.
It is not just the residents of Muriwai and North West Auckland who have suffered from the poor response to the flood events. The residents of Hawkes Bay and South Auckland have faced similar challenges. This lack of leadership and compassion is evident in the Government’s approach, as it fails to prioritise the needs of the affected communities. The uncertainty and anxiety faced by these people are heavy burdens that need immediate attention and resolution.
With the approach of winter, there is a heightened risk of heavy rains, exacerbating the existing problems caused by the flood events. It is imperative for the Government and Auckland Council to suspend the Resource Management Act so urgent action can be taken to address the infrastructure issues. This includes clearing slips blocking streams, removing debris, and improving the maintenance of catchpits and urban streams. The lack of adequate governance in allowing building without providing sufficient infrastructure has contributed to the severity of the situation.
The stories of flood victims paint a grim picture of their struggles. Some residents, reliant on their flatmates’ support, are struggling to pay their mortgages while they wait for decisions on the future of their properties. Their insurance coverage for alternative accommodations is about to expire. This financial burden, coupled with ongoing mortgage rates and insurance payments, further highlights the need for immediate action and support from the Government and Auckland Council.
ACT believes that to provide certainty for homeowners, the Government and council must prioritise the rebuilding of infrastructure to protect flood-prone areas. Rebuilding in flood-prone areas, where this is safe to do so, requires significant investment, and it is essential to allocate funding accordingly. This may require reprioritising resources from other programmes to support the local infrastructure rebuild. Additionally, there is a need for the Government to act swiftly and propose solutions that take into account the environmental impact and long-term sustainability.
One solution to address the recurring flood events is managed retreat. The Government must respond quickly to implement measures that support managed retreat and commit to funding the necessary infrastructure improvements to protect communities which can stay in place. This includes removing barriers posed by the RMA.
To alleviate the financial burden on affected residents, rates relief must be provided in the interim. This will help ease the immediate financial strain while the Government and Auckland Council work on long-term solutions. It is crucial to provide immediate support and reassurance to the affected communities during this challenging time.
And the Government must not further delay decisions about who can return and rebuild, and where it is unsafe to do so.