Not surprisingly, a fair amount of criticism has been thrown at both our regional officials (elected and staff) and Government for various aspects of the Cyclone Gabrielle emergency relief and now recovery (mis)management.

Most of what I’ve seen relates to the pace of assistance, whether that’s cash, regulatory ‘relaxation’ or general relief support like waste collection.

When it is voiced by property owners who have been personally devastated – homes and businesses, crops and trees lost – their stories and situations are truly heart-wrenching. Their grief makes their venting of anger and frustration totally understandable, but not necessarily accurate or well-directed.

No public official I’ve encountered is sitting on their hands. In the immediate aftermath of the flooding, officials were confronted by damage and service interruption at a scale unprecedented for HB’s current built and farmed environment. 

In the Hastings District, 16 bridges destroyed, 28 significantly damaged, 100km+ roads to be rebuilt. The HBRC estimates 5-6 million cubic metres out of 12 million deposited by flooding will need to be removed – thousands of truck movements required. CHB with over 1,000 kilometres roads faces as much as $150m for damage repair. 

Scale that up for the entire region, add Auckland and Northland, and only then can you get a sense of the trade-offs the Government must address as balancer of competing interests and keeper of your taxpayer purse. We’ve all heard the ‘build back better’ mantra … that won’t happen if government and councils simply throw money out the window hastily to try to quell the hurt and angst.

Circumstances like these raise thorny ‘who’s and what’s first?’ questions.

And even now, let alone in the immediate weeks after the disaster, those questions need to be answered and acted upon with imperfect information, often in situations with no easy answer – like burning waste.

Could we all be better prepared – councils, civil defence, government agencies, lifeline companies, individuals? I’m sure that’s the case (I wish I had a generator!), and deficiencies of planning will surely be identified as the appropriate official reviews are undertaken. Then we ‘ll have even tougher questions to address for the long-term and those will deserve critical investigation and debate. BayBuzz will be in the thick of that.

One thing we can all do meantime is try to get better informed about the facts of what has happened and what the response to date has actually been. Here are some sources you might look at to get the real dirt.

The first is a report prepared by HB’s civil defence team for HBRC.

The second is a ‘Recovery Update’ prepared by HDC staff regarding that district’s recovery activities.

Read these and you’ll gain a better sense of the havoc Cyclone Gabrielle wrought and left for all of us to contend with … and the decisions taken thus far to remediate.

Looking to the future, councils have begun to release their initial ‘Locality Plans’ as required by the HB Regional Recovery Agency. These are quite detailed for serious students of HB recovery planning — here is NCC’s, here is HDC’s, and here is CHBDC’s.

Get informed you can weigh in smartly when councils start consulting.


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