Dozens unable to return to homes in Nelson one year on from devastating floods

A year on from the Whakatū/Nelson floods, dozens of people are still unable to return to their homes.

And, in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle, the South Island city's feeling forgotten about - they want the same Government funding as cyclone-hit regions.

Still caked in mud, the Martichon's home looks like the flood hit yesterday, not a year ago.

The Martichon family's whare appears as though the floods hit only yesterday.
The Martichon family's whare appears as though the floods hit only yesterday. Photo credit: Newshub.

The family of four has moved four times since then, and say finding short-term rentals is tough.

"It is hard, life is hard," says Laury Martichon.

Newshub first met the family last August, and although the mud is cleared they still can't live there because of a large landslide behind the house. 

They're waiting for the council to build a retaining wall.

This continously moving landslip is on council land.
The landslide is on council land. Photo credit: Newshub.

"It's taking a long time, it's been a year already," says Yoann Martichon.

Whakatū/Nelson Mayor Nick Smith said the council is working hard to find a solution.

"It is frustrating for the families with the geotechnical and design work taking some time," he told Newshub. 

"We're determined in Brook Street to make sure we're not just putting back what was there but making it safe for a future event." 

A state of emergency was declared in the city on August 17 last year, and in the following days more than a metre of rain fell in some areas.

It caused more than 500 slips which smashed through houses and left hundreds of people homeless.

A landslip crashed right through this house in 2022.
A landslip crashed right through this house in 2022. Photo credit: Newshub.

The flood resulted in millions of dollars of damage to roads, water infrastructure, council land and private properties.

The council has spent $24 million to date, and the total cost is expected to be $57.1 million.

Smith says the council was pleased with Government support during the emergency phase, but since then it's dried up.

"We're feeling quite hard done by, 12 months down the track," he said.

The mayor has three key "gripes" with the Government, after the level of support it provided to Cyclone Gabrielle victims and not Whakatū/Nelson flood victims.

"The rental accommodation insurance where people's insurance run out, around buying people's properties out where it's uneconomic to fix, and in that area of betterment where we believe Government should be coming to the party to help councils to make communities like Nelson more resilient to these events that are becoming more frequent," Smith said.

For residents like the Martichons who are paying a mortgage on a house they can't live in, plus renting temporary accommodation, the rental supplement for cyclone victims, but not them, is hard to swallow.

"It's like a slap in the face to be honest. We just feel completely left out."

However, Cyclone Recovery Minister Grant Robertson said the Government is considering extending its support.

"We're getting our cyclone recovery unit to go down, sit down with the people in Nelson and see what we can do."

The Mayor asked the Government for $12 million in July to remediate slips on council land, but was turned down. However, he said he'll keep lobbying the Government because the council can't shoulder all the cost on its own.

There are still 68 yellow-stickered homes in Nelson and 13 red-stickered. In total, 25 houses are uninhabitable, including Jenny and Chris Wraight's home of 23 years on Rocks Road.

It sits at the bottom of the Tāhunanui Slump, an infamous and continuously moving large slip where thousands of homes are built on.

During the floods last year, the house was pushed off its piles as the earth below it shunted forward due to too much moisture. 

Dozens of homes in Whakatū/Nelson are still red-stickered, meaning owners can't live in them.
Dozens of homes in Whakatū/Nelson are still red-stickered, meaning owners can't live in them. Photo credit: Newshub.

"We heard a huge bang, all of the plasterboard was cracking. It was a horrific noise," said Jenny.

It looks like an earthquake has hit the house, with twisted walls and windows and large cracks through the ceiling and floors

"Looking back over the past year, it's gone really quickly but at the time it was very difficult changing motels all the time and losing sleep over the uncertainty of it all," said Chris.

The house has to be demolished, but the couple consider themselves lucky because just this week they've had an offer of insurance.

"The proposal is with our lawyer. It's a bit embarrassing really as people in Gisborne, Hawke's Bay and Auckland are not in the situation we are in - touch wood it works out for them as well," Chris said.