Newshub Nation: Minister Kieran McAnulty denies high turnover of regional Cyclone Recovery Ministers is disruptive

Recovering from Cyclone Gabrielle is still a daily reality for thousands of people across Aotearoa.

Kieran McAnulty is the third minister in charge of the cyclone recovery for the Hawke's Bay region after Stuart Nash lost the job for leaking confidential Cabinet information, and Meka Whaitiri defected to Te Pāti Māori.

McAnulty sat down with Newshub Nation's Rebecca Wright to discuss how the recovery is progressing. 

Despite the high turnover of ministers, McAnulty said it "hasn't actually been disruptive".

"I think it could have the potential to be but it hasn't worked out that way.

"We committed to a regionally led response and still stand by that because that's how Civil Defence works in New Zealand."

While a small part of Hawke's Bat sits within McAnulty's Wairarapa electorate, with Grant Robertson overseeing the response from Wellington, there are concerns the response is no longer regionally led. 

"What we mean by regionally led is led by the region, not by a regionally based minister," McAnulty clarified.

"It's really the local councils and the local agencies telling the designated minister what they need and then it's the minister's job to go and get it."

In the press release announcing 'Lead Ministers for local Cyclone Gabrielle response', Chris Hipkins said “A key lesson from the Christchurch earthquakes was the importance of local knowledge and input into decision-making. Working alongside Mayors and Chairs, these local leads will ensure local voices are heard and acted on”.

Six months on from the cyclone and some people are still living in caravans or emergency housing, and having to use portaloos

McAnulty said he doesn't blame people for thinking things haven't moved fast enough. 

"It's only the third time that we've ever had a national state of emergency. 

"Every step of the way we've had in mind that what we're doing now is essentially going to be the blueprint for what we do for the next event and, frankly, there's going to be plenty more."

After the Christchurch earthquakes, red-zoned properties were bought out at 100 percent of their value. Following Cyclone Gabrielle, red-zoned property owners are receiving just 50 percent - estimated to cost the Government just over $90 million. 

One Esk Valley resident Philip Barber told AM the buyout is a "complete joke".

McAnulty said the buyouts have to be strategic because whether intended or not, "you essentially set a precedent and that's going to apply moving forward".

He denies the recovery has slowed down but admits he's "as frustrated as anyone because these things take longer than anyone wants".

Many cyclone-impacted residents in Hawke's Bay are unhappy with the lack of a timeline for the region's recovery, but McAnulty said the Government's "not going to lie to them and we're not going to mislead them"

"If we knew how long it would take, we'd let them know, but we don't.

"Right throughout we've tried to be upfront."

Something that may further delay the recovery from Gabrielle is if programs implemented now are put on hold - or thrown out - should a change of Government come in October.

McAnulty said that he doesn't think the Government will change but, if it does, he hopes nothing significant will be altered.

While he hasn't gotten formal bipartisan support for the recovery measures in place, he said he has a "steer" and "good relationships" with the Opposition.

"At no point have they said, 'You're doing the wrong thing' in terms of levels of support but they have asked questions about certain aspects.

"I hope they don't change the support," he said.

McAnulty said that bipartisan support was a decision for the Opposition and he can't "predict what they're going to do".

Pressed on whether or not he formally went to the Opposition to ask for bipartisan support, he said: "Keeping in mind these haven't been my decisions as a minister, they've been other ministers, I don't believe support has been sought for that."

McAnulty said decisions are "being made alongside the regions and alongside the sectors, but certainty is key because they know where they stand now.

"They know the support that's there and they're making informed decisions that are best for themselves, their families and their businesses.

"The worst thing that could happen now is support packages changing, changing everything they've got in place."

Watch the full interview for more. 

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