Cyclone Gabrielle: Hawke's Bay residents slam red zone home buyouts as 'insulting'

  • 04/08/2023

A "green potato offer" is what the Government and council's shared buyout agreement has been dubbed by Hawke's Bay residents.

The Government announced in June that the around 700 residential properties written off by Cyclone Gabrielle and the Auckland floods would be offered a buyout option.

Newshub revealed on Thursday details of the buyout which was accepted by Hawke's Bay councils.

The new cost-sharing agreement will see the cost for category 3 residential properties, once insurance is taken off, covered 50/50 by local and central government.

The agreement could cost up to $556 million subject to community consultation. It is made up of $203.5 million for flood protection projects, $260 million for transport projects and $92.5 million for property buyouts.

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst told AM she is delighted at the investment which will give them the opportunity to build back their bridges and roads.

"[It will] also give people the certainty that for category 2 and 3 that they can move on with their lives, that they will have flood protection and there will be a voluntary buyout scheme," Hazlehurst said.

However, residents say there is nothing there for those who pay their insurance and claims residents will be handing over their land for less than it's worth.

Esk Valley residents Steve Wheeler and Philip Barber told AM on Friday the buyout is insulting.

"This has just been a cluster of terrible mistakes, promises that have never been fulfilled. We are a very small number here in the valley… We don't matter and now we understand that we really don't matter," Wheeler said.

Barber, who owns Petane Wines, has been digging vines out of silt for the last four months.

He said the buyout is a "complete joke". 

"Why would I hand over my land when I am not getting anything back?" he said.

They're calling it the "green potato offer".

"It's poisonous," Wheeler said.

Wheeler said the offer is going to drive a lot of people "into despair" and warns residents will leave New Zealand to find work elsewhere.

"After all we have gone through, this is actually insulting. This is just a terrible meanness - that's the only way that I personally can describe it."

The residents said they don't want promises, they want the Government to come down to Esk Valley, have a look and help.

"Get a shovel, get a rake and come here and help us," Wheeler said.

Appearing later in the programme, Labour Minister Ginny Andersen said she was in the region last Friday.

She told AM the government and councils will be topping up residents' payouts from insurance if it falls short.

"The experience those people have been through is horrendous. So it's been a long process to try and come into those areas where insurance hasn't provided people enough and so the Government and local Government are footing the bill to help those people in those instances," she said.

Victoria University public policy Professor Jonathan Boston, who specialises in managed retreats, said in the past, the properties have been valued by the most recent rating value.

"My understanding is there may not be full compensation on that basis in this case and certainly not for those properties that were uninsured," Prof Boston said.

He said there are still questions remaining over what the level of compensation for the property owners will be.

Prof Boston said there needs to be a multiparty agreement on what will be a fair sharing of the costs between the property owners, and central and local governments.