Cyclone Gabrielle: Damage could cost tens of billions of dollars, lead to higher supermarket bills

Tens of billions of dollars. 

That's one estimate for how much Cyclone Gabrielle's destruction could cost New Zealand.

Treasury says we can afford this, but there are warnings household budgets are about to get even more stretched.

Cyclone Gabrielle turned roads into rivers. Some main routes, like State Highway 25a on the Coromandel Peninsula, have become totally impassable. Those which have been destroyed will need to be fixed. 

"We do know this isn't going to be cheap. We do know it's not going to be fixed quickly," said Emergency Management Minister Kieran McAnulty.

It could take years to truly know the extent of the damage and the cost.

"I don't think we'll know for some time."

Treasury chief executive Dr Caralee McLiesh on Wednesday said Treasury has stood up a team to look at the effects of the cyclone. 

"We're actively working to understand the economic and fiscal impacts. We don't have a specific number at this point but we know that they will be significant."

It will be a significant hit to our economy.

"We are probably looking at somewhere between $10 to $20 billion," said Christoph Schumacher, Professor of Innovation and Economics at Massey University.

Dr McLiesh said it won't bankrupt the country. 

"No, we're confident that New Zealand's fiscal position is strong."

The cost of the carnage won't just be to the Government's books but the insurers' too.

"If you're talking about insured losses, this is certainly going to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars," said Tim Grafton, the chief executive of the Insurance Council. 

But they will pay up.

"Insurers operating in New Zealand are required to have a sufficient level of solvency to meet events like this."

This devastation is also going to hit Kiwis' wallets hard. Our food bowl has been decimated, farms have been wiped out, gallons of milk dumped, supply chains just washed away with the roads, even getting food around is now a major challenge and expensive.

"This will put more pressure on the prices and I wouldn't be surprised if we see supermarket bills rise even further," said Schumacher.

To ease pressure National is still keen to offer up tax cuts

"Absolutely what we're talking about is inflation adjusting tax thresholds," said leader Christopher Luxon. 

Even if it means less for the Government to spend.

"I personally think it's not just about the dollars. As a former CEO, who is used to spending money and making investments, it is about what you do with that money."

It's money the Government is about to need an awful lot of.