Cyclone Gabrielle: Chris Hipkins apologises to roadworkers held at gunpoint, says he got incorrect information from police

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has apologised to the road workers who had a gun pulled on them at a checkpoint in Hawke's Bay in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle. 

The apology comes after Hipkins initially played down claims of widespread crime in cyclone-hit regions, saying there were no first-hand accounts of people pulling guns on road workers. 

But one road worker told Newshub they had given first-hand accounts to the police days earlier. 

"I regret that one of the comments that I made was taken to be questioning the authenticity of what people were saying," Hipkins told AM on Tuesday. "The information that I had from the police, at that point, was clearly incorrect.

"Absolutely, I regret the fact that the intel I had was incorrect at that point. 

"The overall message here is we've got 145 extra police on the ground in the Hawke's Bay area at the moment because we are concerned, and because we want to make sure that the community feels safe."

But Hipkins said there were still some unsubstantiated claims about some reports of crime.

"There are even rumours out there now which are not stacking and proving to be incorrect… like the fact that there was an allegation that the Gun City had been ram-raided and that everyone had stolen the guns and they were now on the streets, that simply didn't happen - it simply isn't true so I just think people need to be a little careful about making sure where things have actually happened, that they're reporting those to the police."

Chris Hipkins.
Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: AM

Cyclone repair bill 'massive' 

Speaking to AM host Ryan Bridge about the recovery from Cyclone Gabrielle, Hipkins said the repair bill was "massive" but the exact amount, "to some extent", was unknown.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has previously hinted at the recovery costing about $13 billion.

"I wouldn't want to put a different figure out there to the one the Minister of Finance has been using," Hipkins said.

"To some extent, we don't know what we can and can't do yet in terms of the rebuild. So if you think about silt, it may be that some of those areas can be cleaned up - it may be that there are some areas where we just can't clean them up because of the volume of silt that we're talking about.

"We've still got all of that work to do."

The Government on Monday said it would hold an international fundraising appeal and a special Lotto draw to help support the cyclone recovery efforts.

Four people remain missing following the cyclone.