Government reveals details of cyclone taskforce terms of reference

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins is giving a media briefing during his visit to flood-hit Hawke's Bay.

He is briefing media in Hastings, alongside Cyclone Gabrielle Recovery Taskforce chairperson, Sir Brian Roche, and director of emergency management for the National Civil Defence, Roger Ball.

Hipkins' briefing comes after Cabinet agreed the terms of reference for the taskforce, with its primary purpose to align locally led recovery plans with the work of government agencies and the private sector.

Hipkins said he had the opportunity to see first hand to see the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle on growers today.

"While we can see images of that on the TV news, actually seeing it up front really brings home the reality of that."

There was a lot of work to do ahead, with some things happening faster than others, he said. He wanted to reassure growers that the government was listening and taking on the feedback they had given.

"We are committed to making sure we get this region back on it's feet as fast as we can."

Getting on the ground was not just about getting photos for the news but about hearing people, Hipkins said. "So that the government response is actually taking on the real and lived experience of those on the ground."

All of what he had seen would stay with him, Hipkins said.

"When you're driving past orchards and you're seeing caravans in the trees, you just realise the strength of the natural disaster that unfolded. That's pretty confronting.

"The depth of the silt in areas, seeing people clearing their household contents out on the side of the road because that's the only place they can put it - it's pretty tough."

To residents of Wairoa, Hipkins said they were doing everything they can to make sure supply lines stayed open. Roading and telecommunications were intermittent but they had "absolutely not been forgotten about".

Hipkins said he would continue to try and visit the area.

Hipkins said food prices to some extent would be impacted by decisions made in the next while like which of the crops could still be harvested and which would be written on - "Obviously there's quite a lot that's been written off".

But, he said, it was still too early to say.

There was a balance between getting silt cleaned up and work that needed to be done prevent this in the future - like stop banks.

"We need to make sure we're not in a position where they clean up only to find that the rain comes down and the whole things happens all over again.

"We know that more government support is going to be required, we've got to work carefully through what that looks like, how we can do that equitably and fairly and transparently."

The cost of the cleanup and the best way to do the cleanup was still unclear, he said.

On communities feeling neglected, Hipkins said people have a right to feel nervous, angry and anxious. The commissioner of police was putting extra resource into the region, he said.

Minister of Police Stewart Nash would be meeting with local police today to make sure they get the support they need.

Taskforce details

"Our response will ensure affected communities are at the centre of the decision making and that local voices are fed back to the government through the taskforce," Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said in a statement today.

"The taskforce will also oversee specialist groups of experts who will advise the Government on what is required for the recovery and how to improve resilience to climate change and severe weather in the future."

Its membership will include representatives from business, local government, iwi and unions. Membership will be finalised in the next week.

Expert sub-groups are also being established for insurance and banking, utilities and telecommunications, and infrastructure, construction and roading.

The taskforce will coverall regions affected by the January and February floods and cyclone, the government said.

Regional groupings will also be set up and report directly to the taskforce.

The taskforce will advise ministers on the prioritisation and sequencing of needs for each region.

"Its initial focus will be on the immediate recovery but it will also lead on planning for future resilience, which will become its greater focus over time. This is similar to what happened in Queensland following the 2010/11 floods," Robertson said.

"Part of the taskforce's work will cover issues to do with managed retreat, as well as other adaptation and resilience issues. Climate resilience will be a core objective of the recovery.

"We are committed to a locally-led recovery, supported by central government. The establishment of this taskforce will ensure local perspectives are included, the recovery is coordinated and fits the needs of the affected regions."

Hipkins' visit comes after he flew to Auckland yesterday to visit business owners and residents affected by recent flooding events, including damage from Cyclone Gabrielle.

Hipkins told a media briefing yesterday his comments on there not being a crime spike in Hawke's Bay after Cyclone Gabrielle were out of touch because he was receiving out-of-date information from police.

Yesterday parts of Hawke's Bay flooded due to more heavy rain, particularly in Wairoa.