Cyclone Gabrielle: Six months on in Te Karaka sees the uninsured do better than the insured

It's been six months since Cyclone Gabrielle but somehow the uninsured are doing better than the insured in the small town of Te Karaka

Almost every home was affected when Cyclone Gabrielle ripped through the community of Te Karaka in February.

Of the 110 houses impacted in the rohe, 66 were insured while 44 were uninsured.

Six months on, many of the uninsured are back in their repaired homes while their insured neighbours are still battling for a payout.

After the cyclone the local iwi Te Aitanga A Mahaki quickly stepped up - setting an ambitious target to have repairs and rebuilds done on the 110 impacted homes by the end of August.

The iwi created a temporary village where they provided 106 temporary housing pods for whanau. Te Aitanga A Mahaki was also able to secure central government funding to support repairs for uninsured households.

Robyn Rauna is leading the iwi response and her philosophy is simple.

"I've tried to make sure that [when] you do a repair, you look to do it once and only once."

Once the home is warranted, families are moving back into their repaired homes.

But for insured families, Rauna believes it's been a completely different story.

"We're still very much at the beginning of the process of engaging with insurance companies," she said.

"I didn't realize it would be this difficult having on average nine different individuals for every single one of my claims."

Rauna is currently managing 39 insurance claims, including one for a 90-year-old resident and another for a Pākehā couple in their eighties.

She's starting to make major progress, securing $3m so far in insurance payouts.

However, there's still an estimated $15m of insurance claims for Te Karaka homes still to go.

"Insurance companies need to be far more empathetic, years of insurance premiums have been paid for by people here," she stressed.

Rauna has managed to secure two dedicated insurance assessors for families in Te Karaka.

"We, as an iwi, we're trying to disrupt the whole industry," she said.

"Insurance companies need to be far more helpful than probably what they have been to date."

Rauna is faced with another challenge, finding out what council regulations may be put in place to stop this from happening again.

"If it takes three years, will insurance companies continue to insure our homes?" she asked.

Despite the barriers, Rauna is forging ahead for her community.

"I won't be happy until I see them back in their homes."