A small flotilla of Ministers, including PM Hipkins and Recovery/Finance Minister Robertson visited Hawke’s Bay Sunday to announce a $1 billion cyclone recovery package. That funding covers all cyclone-damaged areas of New Zealand.
How much comes to Hawke’s Bay is yet to be established, and accessing some will require co-investment by our councils.
The Government announcement was made at the Taradale stopbank whose recent uplifting just barely managed to save Taradale from inundation. It was hard to imagine that standing at that spot, one would have been under metres of floodwater during the disaster.
PM Chris Hipkins said, “This is about doing the basics – repairing what has been damaged and making smart investments … This recovery package will get roads, rail and schools back to where they were before the extreme weather hit this year so communities can get back to normal as soon as possible.”
The package includes $100 million earmarked for flood protection. I asked whether this was for stop banks only, and both Minister Robertson and HBRC Chair Hinewai Ormsby commented that other measures for managing flood waters – such as spillways, wetlands – would be considered in remedial plans. The money is not an outright allocation; HBRC must apply for a share of these ‘co-investment’ funds.
Chair Ormsby commented, “We welcome the flood protection funding. We are undertaking a major review of our flood schemes to gather learnings about where improvements can be made to safeguard our communities. We will take these learnings and reconfigure our flood schemes, using the Hawke’s Bay part of this funding, so they behave in a known way in big climate events.”
The Ministers noted that these amounts were on top of relief funding already announced and covered just the coming fiscal year, with more to come as the recovery would be multi-year. Minister Robertson noted, “These costs relate to damage and don’t include all of the immediate and ongoing support for communities and businesses provided by the Government In our programme of rolling support.”
Transportation and mental health support are other key elements of the funding announced today.
Transportation Minister Wood’s announcement said, “Within the support announced today, $275 million is earmarked for Waka Kotahi and local councils to repair affected roads and get New Zealand’s essential transport network operating again. This is on top of the $250 million the Government announced immediately after Cyclone Gabrielle.” He noted that the Palmerston North to Gisborne Line would receive repair focus.
At the announcement, Minister Robertson made clear that the road repair funding included support for local roads, not just major highways, reflecting the Government’s commitment to re-establishing pre-cyclone community connectivity.
$10 million is provided for “community-led mental wellbeing initiatives”. A release from Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said, “We know from other disasters in New Zealand and globally that mental health impacts emerge over time. The demand for various services will change over the next 6 to 12 months, and our response will evolve to ensure we’re responding.”
Still to be addressed is what support Government will provide to the region’s primary sector. I questioned the Ministers on this, mentioning HB’s ask of around $800 million for our horticulture sector. Minister Robertson acknowledged three reports indicating that scale of need, but demurred as to how much and when funding support might be announced, saying those discussions would take more time (he mentioned weeks) and must take into account the fiscal reality that Government could not fund all cyclone-related businesses losses.
A bit overshadowed by the Government funding announcement was the re-opening also on Sunday of the Napier to Wairoa road, or as they say in Wairoa, the Wairoa to Napier road. The road suffered damage to around 100 sites, including the bridge at Waikare Gorge, which was completely destroyed during the cyclone.
Mayor Craig Little says now that the road is open, the people of Wairoa are looking forward to reconnecting with family, agencies, services and people who they have not seen for three very long months. “This national highway is so much more than just a road. It connects Wairoa to the rest of Hawke’s Bay, to our whānau and to vital services, including healthcare … This road is our lifeline, and we are appreciative of the work that has gone into restoring connectivity.”