Cyclone Gabrielle: Tiny home solution proposed for displaced Muriwai residents

  • 21/02/2023
A tiny home builder has offered a solution to Muriwai residents who have lost their homes.
A tiny home builder has offered a solution to Muriwai residents who have lost their homes. Photo credit: Newshub

A week after Cyclone Gabrielle ripped through the North Island, some streets in the West Auckland community of Muriwai remain cordoned off, leaving residents unable to access their homes.

But one resident is trying to turn the desperate situation into a hopeful one, and keep displaced people connected to the community through her tiny home business.

Across Auckland, 202 homes had been red-stickered since the cyclone tore through last week, a large number of them in Muriwai.

Auckland Emergency Management deputy controller Rachel Kelleher said some of Muriwai's streets remained extremely dangerous.

"There is such a heightened risk of further land movement," Kelleher said.

"Given the nature of the cliff faces in the area, if they did start to move then they could move very, very quickly and could have seriously catastrophic impacts on the surrounding property," she said.

"And if people were in that area, then obviously on them as well."

Most of Muriwai's Domain Crescent and a large section of Motutara Road had been cordoned off, with access tightly controlled.

Kelleher said further assessments were needed before officials would consider allowing anyone back into their homes, even to grab supplies.

While some residents were anxious to rescue pets they could not take with them as they urgently evacuated their properties, she said the safety of humans was paramount.

"The very strong message is that those cordons have been put there for a reason, the placards are there for a reason, and it's very much because we want people to be safe," Kelleher said.

"We can't guarantee that if people were to enter those properties they wouldn't be placing themselves at some level of grave risk."

Kelleher could not yet provide a figure on the number of people displaced from their homes.

But Muriwai resident Shaye Boddington said a lot of people were wondering whether they would be able to remain in town.

"Losing your house is one thing, and that's obviously pretty heart-breaking," Boddington said.

"But the more devastating thing for Muriwai residents is when they lose their community and have to move outside of this township that we all love so much."

Boddington, the director of Shaye's Tiny Homes, said her area of expertise could become part of the solution for Muriwai.

To that end, she was offering to build a tiny home for anyone who had lost their home to a slip or had it red-stickered.

She had committed to doing it all at cost and as quickly as possible.

"It depends on how many houses we have in stock in the short-term, but in terms of building, the turn-around is about eight weeks," Boddington said.

"If we got more people involved, we could build more houses, we could get a lot of people settled in the two-to-three-month mark."

Boddington was already relocating one tiny home back to Muriwai for a family who had lost their home.

She said the face of the community could change, with many people scared to return to their homes even if building assessors signed them off.

To provide for those people, she now needed residents with any spare pockets of land to come forward.

"There's a lot of farmland in Muriwai; there's a lot of big properties where there'd be many suitable parking spots and locations for tiny houses," Boddington said.

"A little nook on a farm somewhere, at the corner of someone's garden - it's amazing how compact these homes are."

Asked whether Boddington's vision of a tiny home community could form part of Auckland's recovery process, Kelleher said she could not speak to tiny homes directly.

"[We're] certainly looking at how we can support communities, what we need to do to enable people to have access to housing.

"All of those things will be traversed as part of the broader recovery plan that will take place."

Kelleher said the emergency management team would look at allowing residents managed re-entry into their homes as soon as it was safe to do so.