Edgecumbe flood: Heads could have, should have rolled - board member

"Had there been the gallows there on Saturday night, there would have been a hanging. People were absolutely livid."

Whakatane District Council community board member Graeme Bourk didn't mince his words, speaking to The AM Show on Monday morning.

He told host Duncan Garner he's got hundreds of people wanting to take legal action against whoever is responsible for last week's stopbank failure, which left the town under water.

Mr Bourk says he's no lawyer, but the hundreds left homeless "need to do something" to ensure it doesn't happen again.

"We've got to try," he told The AM Show on Monday.

"They knew about that undermining 40 years ago, and they were told about it. There were people that knew about it and they were very disturbed about it, but nothing was done."

Graeme Bourk (The AM Show/Newshub.)
Graeme Bourk (The AM Show/Newshub.)

Who 'they' is remains to be worked out. Mr Bourk says it's not his council - he has Trustpower and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council in his sights.

"I've crossed swords with the council, as a community board member. But I know it's not the council's fault - we've got a very, very good mayor, and we've got a very good CEO and a good council.

"It goes a lot higher - it goes to Trustpower and regional. Regional's just put their rates up for everybody. I don't believe we should even be paying rates for the regional council. They're a bunch of cowboys."

Emotions ran high at a community meeting on Saturday night, with more than half the 500-strong crowd storming out, unhappy with what they were being told by officials - or, in many cases, not being told.

"Once this gets out and people realise, it'll grow very, very big. It is a David and Goliath thing, but it's also a truth and lies thing too, and truth always wins."

Promises forgotten

Mr Bourk says the last time the stopbank leaked - in 2004 - locals were promised it would be fixed.

"At the meeting in 2004, they emphatically promised that would never happen again. They've let us down a second time."

He was at ground zero when it failed last week.

"I was about 60 feet from it when it actually burst. The wall was just like a Nippon clip-on really - they were just relying on the wall holding hands to stop it falling over."

His own house is probably a write-off. It's 43 years old, and the floor has collapsed under the weight of around "two feet of water" (60cm).

A right to be upset

Prime Minister Bill English says the residents have a "right to pretty upset" with Trustpower and local officials, as well as the lack of warning many residents got. He told The AM Show there will likely be a relief package similar to those rolled out after the Christchurch and Kaikoura quakes.

"It's been a successful recipe elsewhere. My presumption is that there will be something along those lines. The town is completely shut down. Those businesses were shut, in some cases, at a few minutes' notice."

Cabinet will be discussing the response today. He isn't promising a Government-level inquiry, instead suggesting support might be given to local councils to conduct their own.

"The indications are that under difficult circumstances sensible decisions were made, but you have to have a proper look at it. It may not need to be a Government inquiry."