It is a difficult thing to talk about recovery for Buller a year on from the July floods when this week alone the weather has again shown its might and reminded us of how fragile our world can be.
As everyone who was here at the time knows, in July 2021, it began to rain and this seemingly common occurrence in Westport caused devastation like nothing we had seen before. Our mighty Kawatiri River burst its banks changing its course, and the lives of people in the homes that it flooded. The flow breached Westport’s existing flood defences, with 826 properties and over 2000 people requiring evacuation. Some remain in temporary accommodation a year on.
This, and the subsequent February flooding events aren’t something that anyone can forget. The Buller Flood Recovery team was put together in August last year by Buller District Council to help support the recovery. We’ve put together this snapshot to reflect on some key areas of work that have been our focus in that time – primarily, working with and supporting partner agencies to look after people.
Flood Recovery Navigator Service
As their name suggests navigators help people navigate the range of supports available.
The Community Navigators work alongside individuals and families. This can include connecting flood-affected people to services of different agencies to address needs including family, financial, housing and emotional well-being.
The Navigator programme has supported 196 clients. It has 71 active clients and is still open to receive referrals.
Managed by local NGO’s Homebuilders Trust, Buller REAP and Te Hā o Kawatiri
The Westport Flood Recovery Community Hub was set up to provide the community with a place to go for information and support (or to simply sit down for a cup of tea and a chat).
It is planned for the Hub and a reduced navigator service to continue to operate until the end of March 2023.
Three new homes provided by Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)’s Temporary Accommodation Service (TAS) have been established on Council land in Queen Street, Westport with the support of Buller District Council (BDC).
This is part of work delivered to provide temporary accommodation for people displaced by the floods. Two more houses are being considered for the site.
Five houses established on Council land in Stafford Street were donated by Kāinga Ora and received support from MBIE/TAS, Development West Coast and BDC.
All eight properties are managed by TAS. Civil works are underway on a temporary accommodation village on Alma Road in Westport. The village establishment is being funded through MBIE.
Twenty-two homes were originally planned for the village, but this is now 20 to better fit with the location.
Provided through Residential Advisory Service (RAS)
RAS is a free, independent service for residential property owners who are facing challenges in getting their home repaired or rebuilt after it has been damaged in a natural disaster.
Managed by Number 37 Community House (Potikohua Trust)
The Community kitchen has served over 2600 meals and has approximately 15 volunteers, including high school students who turn up each week to help in the kitchen or deliver meals.
We’ve focused on developing community connection and information-sharing, with regular updates to our website and Facebook page, media releases and these updates in The News.
The team has also worked to promote the Mayoral Relief Funds (rural and non-rural), run two Operation Outreach engagement initiatives to connect with red and yellow stickered homeowners as well as the Tell us how you are going wellbeing survey launched this week.
what comes next?
Many of the roles of the Buller Flood Recovery team will soon be absorbed back into Buller District Council and other agencies but that doesn’t mean things will stop.
We will cover more of this in our next update at the end of this month but be assured there is still a core Buller Flood Recovery team working with BDC on the important things left to deliver.
There is still plenty of support with the Community Hub, Navigator Service, community kitchen and our key communications channels continuing. It’s natural to feel anxiety about change and uncertainty so we leave you with this
message from Sir John Kirwan:
“My message to anyone struggling with their mental health right now is to remember that it’s an illness, not a weakness, and with the right support you can turn things around. And if you’re worried about friends or loved ones who might be doing it tough, the best thing you can do is reach out to make sure they know you’re there for them.”
COVID-19 resulted in fewer planned events than hoped. However, the Flood Recovery team has been working to connect people through the Hub as well as events such as:
• the recent over 65’s afternoon tea;
• the Women’s Wellness Event;
• Elf on the Shelf Xmas Christmas Event;
• and bringing motivational speakers to the community such as mental health champion Sir John Kirwan.
The team has also provided all Westport schools with copies of “How do I Feel” books. A series of information sessions to explain the science behind resilience decision-making is also underway. The next session is planned to be held next month.