Hawke’s Bay farmer Barry Hoy was “very pleased” to open a letter informing him his home was no longer in Category 3, meaning he can now see out his retirement in his long-term Tāngoio home.
However, others are still fighting to get their homes moved out of Category 3 before it’s too late.
The deadline for placing feedback on Category 3 decisions - including asking for a review - has now passed for Esk Valley, Tāngoio and Pākōwhai and communities like Rissington and Dartmoor have until Thursday to have a final say.
The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC) will then look to move its list of Category 3 homes and properties - currently numbering 328 properties - from “provisional” to “final” around mid-September.
That will allow the Hastings and Napier councils to begin voluntary house buyouts with those property owners around early October, if all goes to plan.
Category 3 refers to areas that have been deemed unsafe to live in due to unacceptable flood risks in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle.
Many people are patiently waiting for the buyout process to begin so they can move on with their lives.
However, not everyone is happy with being placed in that high-risk category, and some have made requests to be moved to a lower category so they can stay in their homes.
Tāngoio farmer Barry Hoy was shocked to learn his home had provisionally been placed in Category 3 on June 1, despite floodwaters stopping about 25 metres short of his residence.
His home has since been moved to Category 1 after his case was reviewed and he featured in a Hawke’s Bay Today story.
“I was very pleased,” Hoy said of the result.
“They got back to me within a week and I said to them, ‘well I shouldn’t be in Category 3′ and I got a letter [soon after] which said I am now in Category 1.
“I appreciated it. That was good of them to do that. I want to stay here.”
He said he did not have concerns about living in Tāngoio.
“I am not concerned [about the risk]. I am going to clean my place up and put new grass in there and look forward to the next couple of years. I love it here,” Hoy, who is aged in his 80s, said.
About half of his farm was flooded during the cyclone and remains in Category 3.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council chief executive Dr Nic Peet said it was important to finalise the Category 3 process.
“We are working on completing the categorisation process to enable the district councils to get on with the buyout work,” Peet said.
Eskdale resident Dan Gale, who owns the Eskdale Holiday Park, strongly wants to stay put on his land and family home next to the Esk River.
He self-evacuated the campground in the days prior to the cyclone, knowing flooding was likely, and believes there are ways to mitigate the risk going forward.
Gale said he was not happy with the “pathetic” process to have Category 3 decisions reviewed, including his own home.
He believed the councils should have visited every property owner in Category 3, rather than relied on community meetings and the likes of online feedback forms.
“No one has called us to ask us about anything.”
Gale said he was still waiting on a response from his online feedback form asking for a review of his property.
The HBRC confirmed that anyone who had placed feedback by the cut-off date would still receive a response.
Last month, HBRC general manager of asset management Chris Dolley told Hawke’s Bay Today they simply did not have the resources to go out and speak to every Category 3 property owner individually.
“One question people ask is, ‘why are you not visiting every person in Category 3?’” Dolley said.
“The sourcing of that would add months to this [categorisation] process. If you allow one or two hours to get around each person... that would just push it right out.”
Meanwhile, properties which are still in Category 2A could be moved to either Category 1 or 3 in the future.
Number of Category 3 properties in Hawke’s Bay:
Esk Valley: 110
Bay View (Eskdale end): 20
Total: 328 properties (provisional)
Gary Hamilton-Irvine is a Hawke’s Bay-based reporter who covers a range of news topics including business, councils, breaking news and cyclone recovery. He formerly worked at News Corp Australia.