After the cyclone, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council placed flood-hit homes into categories based on whether they were likely to be liveable in the future. Almost 10 months on, there’s only one home left in the ambiguous category 2P, a category that can best be described as ‘limbo land’. James Pocock talks to the owners.
Andrew and Nina O’Connor were told months ago their river-valley home in Rissington was unliveable.
Around them is the destruction caused by Cyclone Gabrielle, which hit 12 weeks after they moved in. The bridge that crosses the usually idyllic Mangaone River was swept away. Silt buried homes further up the valley.
But the O’Connors had slow-moving water on their land.
They decided they felt safe and not to give up on it.
When 1887 Puketitiri Rd was placed in the red zone in the middle of the year they fought, and they won. The council agreed in October to let them move back into Category 2P, which they’d been in before that.
From 27 properties alongside them in that category a few months ago, they’re now the only ones left.
In theory, they have just one task to do.
They have to make their home higher and more readily able to withstand a flood. Do it successfully and they’ll be able to stay in paradise.
Fail to find the money, or hit another snag in the process, and they’ll probably have to abandon it, and all the work they’ve done on it over the past nine months.
Their most pressing questions now are how much it might cost them before local government deems it safe, and of course whether they can get any financial support.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council general manager of asset management Chris Dolley told Hawke’s Bay Today in August that 2P meant there were “no plausible, significant, community-based interventions” available, and 2P properties may require the likes of raised homes or retaining walls.
Who would pay for these “property-level interventions” had not been determined at that time, but information from the council suggested they are at a cost for the property owners.
“We fought for 2P again, because we love it ... it’s a beautiful spot,” Andrew said of the house.
“We didn’t get back to a 2P until early October, but before we knew that we made the commitment that we were coming back anyway, because we said we can’t afford renting and waiting for a buyout.”
They moved back in shortly after the property was deemed 2P again.
“We had already refloored it, we had been working on it over the period to save the house.”
Nina said they had lived in the house for only 12 weeks when Cyclone Gabrielle hit.
“We went over it for about six months after in our heads about do we want to return, do we feel safe enough to return?” she said.
“We have two young children, but we felt because we could get all of our insurance still and we felt that we don’t have a threat to life there. Financially, it was the best decision to go back as well.”
They both said they had “huge respect” for the way Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and Hastings District Council had handled the process with them so far, but they still had questions about their category.
“The main question we have is about funding and whether it is available or not for people in 2P because we are the only one now,” Andrew said.
“All of the other categories [that can rebuild] have been financially helped I guess, in terms of the rebuilding of stopbanks and all of that, so where we are being helped is a bit of a query,” Nina said.
Andrew said they were not sure why they were the only 2P property in their area.
“It is just because of our position, that is all that we get,” Andrew said.
“We’ve got no one else to compare to,” Nina said.
A Hawke’s Bay Regional Council spokeswoman said the property was 2P because technical assessment showed the risk to life from flooding at the site could be mitigated by property-level interventions.
“Category 2P properties may be moved to Category 1 once any necessary interventions are completed to the satisfaction of the building consent authority,” the spokeswoman said.
Andrew and Nina say they will provide a plan to the council building authority to raise their house out of the hazard zone, about 1.3m above the floor level and half a metre above where the water rose to during Cyclone Gabrielle.
Andrew said a lot of silt was deposited on their property during Cyclone Gabrielle, but the building was structurally sound.
He said the next steps would be getting a quote for the work and, they hope, eventually finding out if there would be any funding assistance.
“We feel like we are definitely a test case,” Andrew said.
“It has probably been the most stressful year of our lives.”
James Pocock joined Hawke’s Bay Today in 2021 and writes breaking news and features, with a focus on environment, local government and post-cyclone issues in the region. He has a keen interest in finding the bigger picture in research and making it more accessible to audiences. He lives in Napier. email@example.com