Auckland Council unable to tell hundreds of cyclone-affected Muriwai residents when they can return home

Felix Walton for RNZ

Hundreds of furious Muriwai residents have vented their anger at Auckland Council staff who could not tell them when they could go home.

More than 100 houses in the beachside suburb were cordoned off when landslides were brought down by heavy rain from Cyclone Gabrielle.

Locals packed into the Muriwai Golf Club to find out the fate of their homes, and tempers flared when council officials did not have the answers they were seeking.

"I don't want to guarantee you that we're going to be in there in two weeks or three weeks or four weeks or five weeks because we don't know," building consents manager Ian McCormick told the meeting, prompting shouts and boos from the audience.

"That's what we need to hear," shouted one resident.

"So how long are we going to be homeless?" another person said.

"You're not homeless, we are!"

Shirley's home is on Muriwai's Domain Crescent, an area now deemed so unsafe that many houses have yet to be officially stickered.

She drove two hours from her emergency accommodation in South Auckland to reach the meeting, and said it was a waste of time.

"This is an absolute joke," Shirley said. "They told us absolutely nothing. You can't tell us that we're going to be homeless indefinitely."

Her patience wasn't the only thing that was running out.

"MSD payments are running out, insurance is not paying out, we're paying rates, we're paying insurance, we're paying our mortgage, and we're paying for temporary accommodation," she said.

Dozens of caravans with tent extensions are parked at the Muriwai beach campground, where displaced families have found refuge.
Dozens of caravans with tent extensions are parked at the Muriwai beach campground, where displaced families have found refuge. Photo credit: RNZ

Without a proper timeline, Shirley said her family was unable to secure a rental home. Instead, they had been staying in costly short-term accommodation.

"They need to tell us, they need to give us an ETA," she said. "If it's going to take six months to sort this out, just tell us so we can find something permanent. We can't afford temporary accommodation at the price of Airbnbs."

What residents wanted most from the meeting was certainty, but without any geotech experts in attendance that was something the speakers couldn't provide.

"You don't know what you're talking about," said a resident. "You should've had a geotech engineer here, you should've had someone to give us some deadlines."

Others feared for their pets. "We're extremely upset, is there any way we can get some food to them?" asked a concerned cat owner. "Even if some drone flies over and drops cat biscuits everywhere," she said. "I don't want to find my cat's skeleton when we get back in there."

Abe said regardless of people's circumstances, everybody was emotional.

"The place is heavy with emotion. Some people are experiencing sorrow, some are really distraught, others are getting angrier and angrier, and others are dealing with guilt that they've come through completely fine."

Abe was maintaining a positive attitude by keeping his expectations in check. "I'm frustrated yeah, but it keeps you young. You've got to mutate to survive," he said. "You've got to limit your expectations, this is a process that's going to take years.

"When you're told that there's no way to know how long this situation will be, it's not knowing that's the worst."

Even though the meeting was a disappointment, Abe said it was important for the council to see how frustrated the community had gotten.

"No solid information, but it's going to come," he said. "You don't ask, you don't get.

"That's why there was heckling."

And ask they did.

More than an hour after the meeting finished, residents were still pressing council staff.

Auckland Emergency Management promised to keep updating residents as frequently as possible.