For those displaced from their homes and communities, we are deeply aware this has been five months of waiting – waiting for clarity, certainty, and the chance to move on. Throughout this time, we, as the region’s council leaders, have been working to achieve the best deal we can for the people of Hawke’s Bay, recognising the financial and emotional cost of the cyclone.
Since Cyclone Gabrielle struck, we have been working with central Government on a wide range of recovery issues. From the immediate clean-up and repair of our region’s flood protection scheme through to the rebuild of Hawke’s Bay’s bridges, roads and associated transport infrastructure, and the future of category 3 properties. This work has been about achieving the best possible outcome for all our communities.
Together, our four city and district councils and our regional council have been working as one, sharing resources and commissioning a joint negotiation effort with central Government on key recovery funding issues.
The five councils appointed former Cabinet Minister, Chris Finlayson, to lead its negotiation team just over a month ago on 20 June. In the five weeks since then, with the strong support of senior members of each of the region’s councils, Chris has been engaged in extensive negotiations with central Government officials.
While the overall package for the region is hoped to cover the range of issues affecting each council, the priority areas will be addressing Category 3 property buyouts, flood protection and urgent roading and bridge repairs.
While we have a number of critical and urgent issues to address from Cyclone Gabrielle, ensuring short-term and long-term rates affordability for our communities is essential. Cyclone Gabrielle has financially stretched every council. In the short and long-term, recovering from Cyclone Gabrielle will require every council to fully leverage its balance sheet and extend its borrowing capacity, which will ultimately have to be funded through rates. As a region, we need the financial and resourcing support of the Government – we cannot fund our recovery alone.
In that respect, the negotiation team has been consistently clear with the Government that any decision on the funding of the voluntary buyout of Category 3 properties must also include the inextricably linked matters of flood protection and transport infrastructure costs.
At the time of writing, the Government’s revised timetable targets decisions on this matter to be reached by the end of July, with final discussions currently taking place. As we have from the beginning, the impact of the cyclone on our community remains front and centre of our focus.
Together, our region’s councils remain committed to providing ratepayers with as much information on any agreement with the Government as possible, and in a timely manner. Five months may feel like a long time for some, but it is important that we balance the desire to move forward at pace with the need to achieve the best possible outcome for the future of the Hawke’s Bay region and the people who call it home.
4 August 2023
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