It was a decision they knew was coming but even prior knowledge of a buyout did nothing to soften the blow for Matatā's Awatarariki fan head property owners.
At a private meeting last night fan head residents were told $15 million, made up of equal contributions from Government, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Whakatāne District Council, was in the kitty to buy the 16 houses and 18 vacant sections deemed too high-risk to be lived on.
In the Whakatāne District Council's Long-term Community Plan, the $15m would also need to fund the creation of a reserve on the land ($1,254,000) demolition/relocation and disposal of the 16 houses ($422,400) valuations and appraisals ($60,000) and property acquisition ($200,000).
The buyout or property acquisition package comes under what has been labelled by district council as a voluntary retreat but residents are angry the word voluntary has been used.
"We have a gun to our heads," home owner Marilyn Pearce said. "How on earth can that be described as voluntary."
Pearce is referring to proposed plan changes to the Whakatāne District Council's District Plan and Bay of Plenty Regional Council's Regional Natural Resources Plan to be determined later this year. If successful, the changes would remove the residents' rights to live on their land.
"If we decided not to voluntarily retreat, we would essentially become squatters on our own land," Pearce said.
"Maybe if this offer was made in 2005 it would have made sense but not this far down the track, not when we have rebuilt our homes and got on with our lives."
Speaking to media yesterday Whakatāne mayor Tony Bonne and the council's chief executive Steph O'Sullivan acknowledged the hurt and anger of residents but said the "risk of loss of life" was too high to be ignored.
Under the voluntary retreat, residents would be offered market value for their properties if they wanted to leave.
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"Offers would also include contributions to legal and relocation costs and offset mortgage break fees, where relevant," Bonne said. "Owner participation is voluntary, but we believe the managed retreat package offers a fair solution which will allow property owners to move on with their lives."
Bonne said council-elected members recognised the depth of feeling Awatarariki owners have for their properties and acknowledged that some people would be reluctant to sell.
"However, we hope that they will approach this process with open minds and realise that this one-off opportunity will provide fair restitution and a way forward which will protect people from the threat of future debris flows."
He said about five property owners had approached the council after last night's meeting and said they wanted to take up the offer.
Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta said the Government had worked closely with local authorities to find a just and enduring solution for residents.
"A voluntary managed retreat from the area is believed to be the best option. This will enable residents to get on with their lives and end the uncertainty which has now prevailed for 14 years," Mahuta said.
However Pearce described the market value offer as rubbish.
"In 2016 when buyout figures were made, we were offered $595,000 for our home. We have a mortgage of $200,000.
"If we do choose to retreat ... effectively we would need to start again with around $300,000. I'm not 20 years old, I receive a pension. Everything we have worked for in our lifetime is tied up in this house and it's too late to start again."
The land her house sits on once belonged to her grandparents. It was the farm run off.
The emotional toll the past 14 years has taken on Pearce is etched over her face.
She said her stomach was churning and she felt nauseous.
"Stress does that to you."
She and other property owners were meeting to decide what their next step would be.
One of the options was to fight the proposed plan changes through the Environment Court.
"We've started a crowdfunding page in the hope of getting some help with legal fees and some of us have been contributing small amounts to a joint fund for our lawyer. I know any legal challenge will be incredibly expensive."
But, if worst comes to worst and voluntary retreat is the only viable option, Pearce believes the offers need to be considerably higher than they are now.
"My neighbour Pam [Whalley] and I have joked that if it comes to a point where we have to be forcibly removed, we will get naked and cover ourselves in oil – and they can deal with us then."
Whalley's daughter-in-law Rachel has spent hundreds of hours researching natural hazards, the Awatarariki catchment and looking at processes used by the council since the debris flow.
She is adamant the fight will be continued through to the Environment Court.
Whalley says she's simply not going anywhere.
Whakatāne District Council general manager planning and infrastructure David Bewley said officials from the Department of Internal Affairs had completed a review last year of the council's indicative business case for a managed retreat from the Awatarariki debris flow hazard.
"This confirmed that the risk analyses and peer reviews were robust; that no engineering solution or other risk reduction option exists; and that no practical land swap option was available," Bewley said.
"Cost estimates included in the indicative business case had been updated to reflect market movement and inflation, but new, independent market values would be established as part of the acquisition process, and a disputes process would also be provided, should any owners disagree with the independent valuations."
Bewley said a combined hearing on the proposed plan changes to the Whakatāne District Council's District Plan and Bay of Plenty Regional Council's Regional Natural Resources Plan was delayed until late 2019 to allow residents time to consider a managed retreat proposal.