By Lauren Crimp of RNZ
The new Emergency Management and Recovery Minister already has an invitation to the East Coast and the region’s leaders hope he takes it up before Christmas.
National’s Mark Mitchell heads up the new portfolio, which was previously covered by two separate ministers under the Labour government: Kieran McAnulty for emergency management and Grant Robertson for cyclone recovery.
Mayors in Hawke’s Bay and Tai Rāwhiti have urged Mitchell to board a plane soonand see for himself the mountain of work that still lies ahead following Cyclone Gabrielle.
Wairoa’s Craig Little planned to cut a deal with the minister, who had left his backpack behind after his post-cyclone visit to the town.
“He’s got to pick that up here first, so we won’t give that back to him unless he gives us something really good.”
Little hoped that “something” was a lot more cash.
Roads were the biggest and most expensive issue, having been battered again by heavy rain and slips over the weekend, he said.
“We’ve still got probably a $150 million spend ahead of us [but] no money, and we want that 100 per cent funded.
“Even if we get 75 per cent funded, in what they call our financial assisted rate from Waka Kotahi, that’s not enough, we’ll just go broke.”
Next was $6m to fix up houses for those who are underinsured or uninsured. Of 133 households, only three were back in their homes, Little said.
“I hope that’s the first thing Mark’s going to do, come to town [and we’ll] say, ‘right, Mark, this is what we need, we need it now’.
“That way we can get some of these people who are really hurting back into their homes. It won’t be this Christmas now, it’ll probably be the following Christmas.”
Further up the coast, the two gateways to Gisborne were on the agenda for mayor Rehette Stoltz, who said she had been in “close contact” with Mitchell.
“We need to be confident that State Highway 2 and State Highway 35 are there for our residents, but also for our businesses,” Stoltz said.
“We grow a lot of food here in our region, so the rest of New Zealand also rely on us getting that to the rest of New Zealand.”
Both roads were constantly closed in bad weather and Stoltz said it was essential greater resilience was built in.
In Hastings, removing silt and debris from productive horticulture land was the top priority, mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said.
There were still 400 outstanding requests and not enough money to service them all.
“We’re grateful that we got $130m from the previous government and that helped us along the way but we’re only halfway through, so we need to carry on with that work and get that land ready again for replanting.”
Hazlehurst also wanted to see more people housed in temporary accommodation.
“People are still living with friends and family, and not back in their own properties yet, so we’ve got a long way to go with housing.
“There’s a lot of work to do and it’s really important that we have the opportunity to show the incoming ministers what our needs are and to be aligned with our priorities.”
The minister would receive a briefing from the Regional Recovery Agency, which represents all five Hawke’s Bay councils, this week.