Auckland homeowner in flood-prone area takes matters into own hands to protect house

The devastating weather events of last year have exposed a dilemma for homeowners living in flood-risk areas.

How do you make your home less prone to flooding?

Raising the house up a few metres off the ground might seem to be one solution - but you may find there's a catch.

Flooding has become all too familiar on Newshub reporter Adam Hollingworth's street. Back in March 2022 he took a hit.

Little did he know the street flooded again and again and again and again. The worst deluge was the Auckland Anniversary floods.

But that time his home didn't bear the brunt. Others - like Andrew Carline and his family - fared far worse.

"The water actually came up through the floorboards, at which point we decided it was time to get out of there," Carline told Newshub.

While much of the focus post-flooding is on Auckland's west coast, Albert-Eden-Puketāpapa Councillor Julie Fairey said, in sheer number of ruined homes, her ward has suffered more.

"People around here have been feeling a bit forgotten," she told Newshub.

"It's also technically more difficult to address some of the stuff here too which means it's going a lot slower."

That's because of what's going on under the ground in terms of volcanic rock, the hydrogeology. Your house may flood but your neighbour's may not, so streets may look relatively unscathed but some residents are being forced to walk away forever.

And with a billion-dollar price for fixing the pipes for the 100 homes on this and an adjacent street, you do the maths.

"It might feel like it's worth it to a homeowner but it may not feel like it's worth it to a ratepayer," Fairey said.

That leaves limited and expensive options.

"For us there was no question, I wanted to lift the house," Carline said.

Insurance said no. In their jargon that wasn't reinstatement, it was betterment.

"Even though we're actually, having lifted the house, we basically eliminated their risk of the water ever coming in again," Carline said.

"At the start I think we had quite a high level of hope that insurance companies would see the value of investing and raising people's houses particularly when they've been repeatedly flooded," Fairey said.

"Unfortunately I've heard very few cases of insurance companies coming to the party on that. I hope that that changes, it seems like it's a good solution."

And with insurance cash for living away running out Carline took the plunge and lifted the house by 800mm. It took a couple of days to raise it.

"We don't want to go through this again and so regardless of whether we fix the pipe infrastructure we're not going to get our house flooded again," Carline said.

There is a council grant for this kind of work. But across Auckland, few homes look likely to qualify. 

"It's a high bar so if that intolerable risk to life of being in a home where you can't evacuate safely from so that's the that's the bar," Auckland Council deputy group recovery manager Mace Ward said.

Auckland Council said 7000 private properties were affected, and 2200 needed detailed assessments because of a potential risk to life from future weather events but only 500 of those have been assigned their final category.

But they reckon most of the others will be categorised by March - with the most complex cases sorted by the middle of that month.

More than 60 are buyouts, the first of which were settled before Christmas - but it's anticipated there'll be grants for between 100 and 120 homes to be made liveable.

"Allowing people to stay where they live work and play is so important for Auckland's housing market," Ward said.

"Also that social network's just so important for people's wellbeing and continuing to be able to live in those places safely.

"So that's not considered in this scheme at the moment but that's something that will be considered in this scheme in the future."

But for now if you want to stay high and dry in Auckland you may have to dip into your own pockets.