Government to assist councils with voluntary buyout of some properties in at-risk areas

  • 01/06/2023

The Government will enter into funding arrangements with councils in cyclone and flood-impacted regions to help in offering voluntary buyouts to the owners of properties in some designated at-risk areas.

Councils in Hawke's Bay on Thursday released maps highlighting areas where there is a potential risk to life during future severe weather events. The maps provided are only provisional and have not yet been reviewed, meaning they could change.

It follows Cyclone Gabrielle, which caused significant damage to the region and has led to a conversation about the need for resilient infrastructure and housing. 

There are three categories outlined, with the most serious - called category 3 - being where the risk of future serious weather events cannot be sufficiently mitigated. 

"In some cases some current land uses may remain acceptable, while for others there is an intolerable risk of injury or death," the councils say.

Cyclone Recovery Minister and Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced the Government will enter funding arrangements with councils to offer voluntary buyouts to the owners of designated residential properties in category 3 areas. It will also co-fund some work to protect some other properties.

Details, including how the buyout process will work, are still being worked through, with decisions expected in the coming weeks.

This will include the criteria for valuation of category 3 properties, the split of costs between councils and central Government and the treatment of uninsured properties.

The Government will also work with councils to help build flood protection and other resilience for properties in the so-called category 2. This is where it's been determined community or property interventions would be effective in managing future risk.

In Budget 2023, the Government announced a $1 billion package of support for flood and cyclone-ravaged communities, including a $100 million flood protection fund. Regions will be able to apply for funding from it for infrastructure like stopbanks. 

Robertson welcomed the Hawke's Bay councils' announcement indicating which areas are in each category.

Associate Finance Minister Michael Wood said he understood the Auckland Council would be talking with property owners from June 12 

"Tairāwhiti has already begun contact with property owners in Category 3, with the remainder to be finalised over coming weeks," Wood said.

"It is also important to note that there may be some properties in other cyclone-affected regions like Northland and Wairarapa that are designated as Category 2 and 3. The Government will support councils in those regions in the same way.

"Initial indications are that across all regions there will be about 700 Category 3 properties, and up to 10,000 homes in Category 2 areas."

While the focus is currently on residential properties, Robertson said the Government would be working with sectors, like horticulture, on possible targeted support and on regional plans. 

The Government said a parallel process is also underway to engage with Māori, including on appropriate processes for whenua Māori. 

Engagement with those communities will be led by the Cyclone Response Unit, Te Arawhiti and local councils, it said. The process will ensure that there are equitable outcomes for these communities.

The Hawke's Bay land categorisation details can be found here.