Housing chiefs are poised to overhaul planning rules which could restrict people building waterfront properties as local government and insurance officials look to prevent repeats of recent widespread flooding.

Hundreds of homeowners in Edgecumbe and Whanganui have been left with a massive cleanup job after recent flooding caused by rivers that run through their towns overflowing - with fears numerous homes in Edgecumbe could be deemed uninhabitable.

As the cleanup continues in the Bay of Plenty - including after this week's Cyclone Cook event - Insurance Council of New Zealand chief executive Tim Grafton said changing the way consents were issued could help prevent other properties from being damaged in future storms.

"Clearly you don't want to consent right on the seashore where the sea level rise might affect them in years to come, or in flood plains where there might be a high likelihood of flooding in future," he said.


The Insurance Council had been working with Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) for about three years to advise councils about the kinds of changes they could make to consent issuing processes that could help minimise property damage during severe weather events.

That work was likely to increase given recent flooding events through residential areas alongside river banks.

Lawrence Yule, the president of LGNZ and Hastings' mayor, said research done by the organisation found weather events were becoming more severe and happening more often because of climate change and councils needed to respond accordingly.

"Ultimately, it might actually lead to rethinking about where people are populated and live. We're working on that but it has to be a long term strategy, it's not a simple fix."

A report from the Environment Commissioner to Parliament last year said a 50cm high tide rise could impact on 9000 coastal properties, resulting in a potential $3 billion replacement cost.

Michael Boulgaris, a real estate agent specialising in luxury properties, said some coastal homes or those with sea views in Auckland could currently fetch four times the prices of properties without these features.

If bylaws changed, preventing people from building new homes close to the water, the value of these new homes would likely plummet, Boulgaris told the Weekend Herald.

Major flooding in Edgecumbe. Photo / George Novak
Major flooding in Edgecumbe. Photo / George Novak

"It will make it pretty tough because all they can really do is push the shoreline metreage back further to protect the properties from erosion or flooding.


"So the sensible thing to do would be to have them elevated to step up to the properties, rather than pushing the boundaries further back."

However, he said, he understood why councils might make changes to consenting laws.

Boulgaris said nobody can control mother nature and after local bodies were caught up in the leaky home saga - where homeowners took action after their consented properties leaked - it made sense that councils would do all they could to protect both themselves and homeowners.

Brian King, general manager of Harcourts Hamilton, said riverside property in his city was desirable to buyers and came at a significant premium.

"There's always strong demand for our riverfront properties and lakefront properties in Hamilton. Generally they are middle to top end or very top end of the market."

But he doubted the recent floods elsewhere would impact property prices in Hamilton specifically because the Waikato river was deep, fast and didn't flood often.

But he added the recent storm damage could definitely impact the prices of property in lower lying areas riverfront areas like in Edgecumbe.

As well as looking at potential changes to consenting close to waterways, local councils were also focusing on warning residents of weather-related emergencies earlier and educating them about what they should do in these situations, Yule revealed.

LGNZ was lobbying for a central agency to be set up to better assess the threat of all natural disasters - floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions - and to research how councils and communities could be more prepared for them, Yule said.

"The best way people have of minimising the risk, certainly to human life, but also to their property is making their own calls about what they need to do as early as possible," he said.

More bad weather to come

Meanwhile, North Islanders have been told to brace themselves for more major big wets over the coming month.

Niwa forecaster Ben Noll warned areas that bore the brunt of the earlier storms were likely to be the worst hit once again.

Residents who live near rivers should take even more care because more flooding was also possible, Noll said.