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Flood victims still pleading for clarity from council

Flagstaff Team

A testy public meeting in Milford last week left residents not much the wiser about flood buy-out progress and infrastructure measures to protect their properties.
But it did emerge that some properties capable of being saved by council infrastructure work may be made eligible for buy-outs, due to the long wait owners would otherwise have to endure.
Auckland Council staff at the meeting attended by around 130 people were given the clear message that homeowners left in limbo wanted clearer communications and faster planning.
A general presentation recapping council’s approach to dealing with issues highlighted by the January 2023 floods was soon interrupted from the floor.
“We want to know what is happening in the Wairau Creek – for our homes and our children,” said one resident. Another said: “We’re talking in circles – this is the fourth or fifth time we’ve had a conference.”
Staff said the Wairau catchment was one of the most complex of 10 areas of focus across Auckland. Discussion continues with the government about sharing costs for major works.
Property categorisation was going “as quick as we can,” said Fiona Wright of council’s Tamaki Makaurau Recovery Office, which organised the meeting at the Milford Baptist Church.
Homeowners who applied last year for categorisation as a step towards buy-out eligibility should have heard back on timings, she said. A show of hands revealed 30 to 40 people were still waiting. Wright said their classifications should be done by June, with those who applied this year to follow. September is the deadline for applying.
By late April, 14 properties in Milford, four in Sunnynook and one in Forrest Hill had been assessed as Category 3, so qualifying for a buy-out. Of these homeowners, some have progressed to the valuation and acceptance stage (see story below).
Scores more homeowners want to know if infrastructure improvements might reduce future risk to their homes, making it safer to stay, before they decide on seeking buy-outs.
Konrad Heinemann from council’s Healthy Waters said because catchment work could take up to a decade, some properties in Milford that might fall into Category 2C (assessed as being fixable with public infrastructure work) would instead be deemed to be in Category 3 – qualifying for a buy-out due to intolerable risk to life – to provide certainty to residents. The trigger would be a likely wait of two years or more.
Mitigation work in Milford would be among the earliest to start, Heinemann said.
Takapuna Golf Course is being scoped as a detention pond during floods, as are other areas. “We are looking at things like widening the creek. We may need to purchase other properties,” Heinemann said.
North Shore ward councillor Richard Hills said with works planning still ongoing, the council did not want to release detailed maps, given the impact on property prices.
Heinemann said he hoped to update the local board in July, but “we can’t share everything”.
He acknowledged that in time some properties may have to be compulsorily acquired.
One attendee called for more simple work such as drain-clearing to cut risk. Others were concerned that they might be spending money on their properties needlessly if they ended up being bought out.
The meeting took two hours, instead of the one hour scheduled.

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