No ratepayer money for homes project

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WHAKATANE District Council’s liveable homes project could be used to repair up to 100 flood-damaged houses.

However, the council is adamant ratepayer funding will not be used to finance the project, rather the money will come from community agencies.

The council unanimously approved the project at an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday following a report by Whakatane District local recovery manager Julie Gardyne.

In the report, Mrs Gardyne said the recovery team had been working with community funding agencies, members of the construction industry, Te Runanga o Ngati Awa, volunteer organisations and other project partners to develop a work programme that would aim to help community members who did not have the means to repair their flood damaged homes to a habitable standard.

She said the goal was to get people displaced from their homes during the April 6 floods back into their homes.

“Preliminary information indicates that there could be up to 100 flood-damaged houses in the district where the owners will not be able to fund the repair work needed to make their homes liveable again,” Mrs Gardyne said.

“In most instances, that is because the homes involved are uninsured or under-insured.

Most of the properties are in Edgecumbe, although there are others spread through the district.

The properties include those that are yellow stickered and, in some instances, those with red stickers that, upon further assessment, it is considered feasible to remediate.”

Mrs Gardyne said the cost of the project had been estimated at $3.5 million but ratepayer funding would not be used to finance it.

“It is proposed that the project will be funded by community agencies and ‘in kind’ contributions from building suppliers administered through the Mayoral Relief Fund,” she said.

“A wide range of community funding agencies are being asked to support the liveable home restoration programme.

“We have engaged with the Eastern Bay Energy Trust, gambling trusts and other philanthropic organisations with positive indications of support. Indicative funding streams amount to approximately $1.87 million.”

Mrs Gardyne said funding requirements and availability were still to be confirmed and she acknowledged that the lack of funds to complete the project was a risk.

“To mitigate this risk, the first phase of the project will occur to ensure all affected homes damaged are removed and disposed of appropriately. This will also allow time to confirm funding and therefore the extent to which a re-fit can occur, subject to the amount of funds being available.”

Council development and compliance manager Jeff Farrell told the meeting the project would involve bringing those uninsured or under-insured homes to a liveable standard by replacing flooring and walls.

He said decorative work such as wallpaper or carpeting would not be included in the project, nor would installing new forms of heating. “Where there was insulation, that will be replaced but we will not be putting insulation in those houses where these wasn’t any to begin with.”

Some councillors were concerned that the project could set a dangerous precedent. Russell Orr said some people could avoid having insurance because of the belief the council would pick up the bill.

“I am really torn on this one. I love very audacious projects that push the boundaries, but usually the council doesn’t go past the letterbox, let alone the gate.”

However chief executive Marty Grenfell said the aim of the project was to allow people to return to their homes.

“This is about getting people back into their homes. The longer people stay out of their homes the greater the financial and emotional impact is going to be,” he said.

“This is a way of creating a focus on getting people back into their homes. Left up to market forces to see that people find the way back into their homes isn’t going to provide a quality or efficient result.”

karla.akuhata@whakatanebeacon.co.nz

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