Bay of Plenty town told to abandon homes

Residents of a Bay of Plenty town have been told they'll have to abandon their homes, but say officials will have trouble getting them to leave.

Matata was ravaged by flooding 12 years ago. Now, authorities say attempts to make the area safe have hit a dead-end.

The town has been Marilyn Pearce's home for 21 years. She was forced to rebuild her house after torrential rain swept debris, boulders and logs through the town in 2005.

Miraculously, no one died - and many residents, such as Ms Pearce, were told they could rebuild.

But after 12 years of extensive scientific work, the Whatakane District Council says 34 properties are at "considerable risk" of being hit by further debris flows.

Whakatane Deputy Mayor Judy Turner says it's inevitable.

"It could happen tomorrow, or it might be 50 years away but it will happen - that's a certainty. And the risk of a loss of life is very high."

The district council is considering asking the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to "extinguish existing use-rights", which would force residents out.

The regional council planning manager David Phizacklea says it would be a "draconian approach".

"I think fundamentally until we get to that point when we get a request for the Whakatane District Council, we don't know whether that's something the regional council would even consider."

Resident's say leaving is not an option.

"I'm not going, it's pure and simple," Ms Pearce says. "This is like a land grab to me."

"In 20 years-time I want to sell the property and move on, as you do as you get older in life," resident Grant Wilkin says. "You should have the option to do that. So at this stage myself and my wife have no intention of going anywhere."

The district council wants government funding to cover the expected $15 million compensation bill for residents.

East Coast MP Anne Tolley says compensation will be considered but ultimately it's up to the councils.

"This isn't the Government's responsibility."