Homeowners were today being gradually let back into their flood-ravaged homes in Tauranga but they have been dealt another blow because their properties will be tagged on official city council files.

Hundreds of neighbours may also have their properties marked as at risk.

The revelation comes as experts clear the backlog of damaged houses still to be deemed as safe to live in.

An elite Urban Search and Rescue Squad started work this morning on salvaging items from the worst-hit homes, starting in Landscape Road.

The combined councils' Mayoral Relief Fund was also boosted by a $250,000 initial grant from the Government last night.

Tauranga City Council chief executive Stephen Town confirmed all incidents of damage known to the council will end up in LIM files held for each property.

LIM (Land Information Memorandum) reports are a key component in house sales and any adverse comment could knock thousands of dollars off the value of properties.

But it is not just the damaged properties that will be tagged.

The impact could spread to neighbouring properties, as Mr Town said the council was deciding whether to limit such comments to properties that suffered actual damage, or extend them to all those in the immediate vicinity.

Such comments could be that the street had experienced slipping or landslides, thereby bringing undamaged properties under the same LIM tag.

"An individual property that has had a subsidence will have some kind of record to that effect on that file," Mr Town said.

The recovery team has completed 115 sanitary assessments to date and allowed 12 families to return to their homes yesterday.

Two families went back home on Monday but another 350 or so homes have yet to be inspected, as the experts work through their mammoth task.

At some sites families are being escorted into their homes by recovery team members so they can try to locate personal possessions.

The Urban Search and Rescue Unit started work this morning, after identifying eight homes in Tauranga for its specialist service.

Mr Town said there were always lessons to be learned in emergency events but it was too early to be talking about changes.

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby welcomed the news of the $250,000 grant, stressing it was over and above the help the Government would provide to restore key infrastructure.

He said the mayors in the flood-affected region would meet soon to discuss exactly how the money would be spent.

Environment Bay of Plenty chairman John Cronin said the Government had matched public contributions dollar for dollar in previous disasters, "and there is no reason to believe they won't do it again".

Meanwhile, real estate agents are downplaying the effect the landslides and loss of homes will have on house prices.

Paul Tozer of Tozer Real Estate in Otumoetai said buyers would become more wary in some suburbs and would demand engineers' reports.

But there were already properties with hazard signs on them and that was not stopping sales.

Doug Morris, manager of Professional Real Estate at Papamoa, said he had buyers wading through water to view properties last week.

- NZPA