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Council seeks external funding to recover costs of cyclone

Matapiro Road Bridge 1

In the immediate aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle, Hastings District Council has spent a significant amount on rebuilding infrastructure and supporting communities to recover, and is likely to need to spend more in the months ahead as this work continues.

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the cyclone had been one of the most devastating and challenging disasters to hit the region in living memory, and had left many parts of the community isolated and vulnerable.

“From the day after the cyclone struck we stood up emergency centres and provided emergency accommodation and supplies. As soon as possible we got out rebuilding our roads and reconnecting communities. Our communities expect us to recover as quickly as possible, and we have submitted our funding requests to Central Government to help with rebuilding and delivering the services our community needs for recovery.”

Council’s financial position to the end of March, and forecasts to the end of June, were outlined to the performance and monitoring committee today.

In a report presented to the committee, indications are that council could have a deficit of $17.9m to June 30 this year if no additional funding support was received, but is confident that requests for external funding could significantly reduce this total to more like $6.3m, said deputy chief executive Bruce Allan.

From when the cyclone struck and looking ahead to June 30 it’s likely about $70m will have been spent, including $60m on roading alone, and an estimated $3.2m on collecting flood-damaged waste.

There’s also been costs to setting up community welfare centres and providing other welfare support as part of the overall response, including getting supplies to isolated communities, estimated to total around $7m.

In the face of this unbudgeted expenditure to restore access, clean up, and support communities, council is continuing to seek additional external funding to what has already been received, to reduce the burden on ratepayers, Mr Allan said.

“The region has welcomed $130m from the government to help with the clean-up of silt and debris, and we have requested funding support from NEMA to help with the costs of welfare support and waste collection.

“Council is currently receiving a 93 per cent subsidy from Waka Kotahi for emergency reinstatement of the roading network, but that still leaves seven per cent of the estimated $60m in costs to be paid by ratepayers and we are seeing the impact of that on our financial position.”

Committee chairman Damon Harvey said the financial impact of Cyclone Gabrielle on the district was not unexpected.

“There is no question that we have had to respond and spend outside our budgets to get our district back on its feet again.

“We are very focused on seeking external funding from national agencies to offset these costs as much as possible to reduce the burden on our ratepayers.”

The mechanisms to fund the deficit will be decided in the months ahead.

15 May 2023

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