Cyclone Gabrielle: Prime Minister Chris Hipkins not ruling out compulsory purchases of homes

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins hasn't ruled out the compulsory purchase of homes devastated by Cyclone Gabrielle. 

The cyclone tore through parts of the North Island, destroying houses and businesses and leaving 11 people dead. 

Labour MP and the MP for Te Atatū Phil Twyford wrote to Hipkins and senior ministers, calling on them to start urgently planning for managed retreat and to buy out homeowners with damaged homes in places it's no longer safe to live.

Twyford said requiring homeowners to rebuild their devastated homes is irresponsible and impractical, knowing they're likely to be flooded again. 

Hipkins told AM on Tuesday it's too early to rule out the compulsory purchases of homes devastated by the cyclone. 

"At this point, we are only a week into dealing with this, you don't take options off the table at this point, but we'll work through a proper process to make sure that the decisions we're making are good," the Prime Minister told AM co-host Ryan Bridge. 

"Of course, we will do that with compassion and respect for those whose lives have been turned upside down."

Hipkins said if the Government buys out people's properties, there needs to be a good rationale for doing it.

"That doesn't mean that everybody who's been affected, who decides that they don't want to live where they have been living previously, will have their property purchased. In cases where the land can be remediated, where extra flood protection can be put in place, then it may be that we aren't willing to provide additional buyout options there," Hipkins explained. 

"On the other hand, in some areas where it's clear that resettlement isn't the best option, as after the Christchurch earthquake, we'll have to work through the best way of addressing that."

Hipkins said the Government will work through a plan, just like they did with the Christchurch earthquake, to figure out what homes will be purchased. 

"In some cases, there was effectively compulsory buyouts and in other cases, there was a degree of opt-in and then in other cases, the Government said 'no we're not going to buy those properties,'" Hipkins said. 

"So we just have to work through a process on that and we've got to do that based on good geotechnical information, good flood protection information and we've got to work through a proper process on it."

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: AM

The Government announced on Monday a $250 million road rebuild fund with the goal of getting critical infrastructure repaired as soon as possible. 

Hipkins said not every road will be repaired in the same manner or location as they've been in the past. 

"In some cases, temporary transport solutions will be put in place to make sure people can still get where they need to get to and goods can still move around. That doesn't mean that every road is going to be restored exactly where it was," Hipkins said. 

"We know we've got roads across the country that have been rebuilt multiple times in recent years, and no sooner has the ribbon been cut on the road reopening it gets washed out again. 

"We're going to have to think about whether there are more resilient pathways for some of those roads. We're going to have to do that with a degree of urgency because we can't leave these communities cut off."

Watch the full interview with Chris Hipkins above.