Westport Flood Recovery

27 August 2021

Yesterday’s Flood Recovery Update provided an overview of the most recent developments to get people back in their homes and what flood-support services are available.

The update was livestreamed on the Buller Emergency Management Facebook page and the Buller District Council YouTube channel last night (26 August) to reach out to the community.

Buller Mayor Jamie Cleine says: “This video delivered important information to our community in times of great uncertainty. Speakers from our partner agencies contributed their expertise and essential advice.”

“Doing it virtually allowed us to update our residents what council is working on during Alert Level 4.”

A key message was that despite Alert Level 4, work on the recovery continues at pace.

Mr Cleine announced that council is offering a rates relief scheme to help flood-affected residents. This scheme supports residents struggling to manage costs following the floods. A key intention is to speed up building consent processes by reducing the financial strain on flood-effected residents.

Mr Cleine highlights that the Mayoral Relief Fund is available to help those struggling financially. About $233,000 has been paid out to 450 people so far. The fund was set up to assist flood-affected residents and is administrated through Council.

Mr Cleine says it is great to see the Buller community continues to support each other.

“I hope everyone stays safe. Continue to be kind to each other through the lockdown. It is an incredibly difficult time, but we will get through this because you’ve stood up again and again.”

Recovery Manager Bob Dickson says wellbeing is top of mind for his team, especially while people are isolated due to the current restrictions.

“We do not want people to feel isolated. We have closed the Community Hub but the team is still available to help on 0800 768 348.”

“You can call our team if you have any questions or you don’t know what to do next, or you just want a friendly person to chat with to get through the days or months ahead.”

The Recovery team is already implementing parts of the council’s draft Recovery Action Plan.

“The Recovery team is working to get these projects implemented as soon as we possibly can, guided by what we are allowed in each Alert level.”

Mr Dickson says an exemption allows local tradespeople to work on unoccupied red and yellow stickered houses during Alert Level 4 and Level 3.

“The intent is that rather than having them sitting idle during the Covid lockdown, we could assist with the rebuild process by allowing local tradespeople to continue.”

Casey Hamilton Harrison, Principal Engagement Adviser with the Temporary Accommodation Service, says 150 households are currently being supported. She urges anyone who needs help or may do in the future to sign up.

So far 16 portable cabins were delivered, and 15 motor homes arrived in Westport with more on the way.

Ms Hamilton Harrison says West Coaster’s are “incredibly resilient” but urges everyone to sign up if they need housing. That includes people who might need housing in the future.

“Reach out to us so we have you on the books and we can start thinking about what option we can get online for you when the time comes.”

Ministry of Social Development Westport Service Centre Manager Clair McManus says while the office is closed until Alert Level 4, MSD staff are fully operational throughout the lockdown.

People can reach them on 0800 559 009, through their MyMSD online account or the Work and Income website.

She says they have several ways to provide help, including connecting people to community support.

“We are very well connected with social service agencies in the Buller, many of which I’m sure you’ve become familiar with in the past six weeks.”

Insurance Council of New Zealand Consumer Affairs Manager Sarah Knox says insurers are an essential service throughout Alert Level 4 and 3. People can still get in touch with their claims handler or assessors at this time. Insurance call centre staff are also set up to work remotely and operating as usual.

If any concerns arise during the lockdown – such as weather-tightness or other new or emerging issues – people can still get insurance assessments in Level 4 and Level 3.

“We know many of you are out of your homes and living in less-than-ideal situations. Insurers are acutely aware of this and are working really hard behind the scenes to make sure your recovery is as quick as possible.”

Darren Wright from the Residential Advisory Service (RAS) says it is important that people get advice about their insurance, particularly around cash settlement offers.

“It is really, really critical that anyone who is looking at a cash settlement, or has received an offer of a cash settlement from an insurance company, gets some advice. That advice could be from a lawyer in Westport, a lawyer in Christchurch or it could be from us.”

People need to know these settlements are likely to be ‘full and final’, so no further claim can be made with the insurer.

Other advice ranges from knowing your rights and obligations in your policy to free legal advice available for more technical claims issues.

Mr Wright notes that people having issues with insurance accommodation payments can also talk to RAS.

Jane George from the West Coast District Health Board encourages everyone to look after their mental and emotional wellbeing, especially during the Covid-19 lockdown.

She recommends following the Five Ways – be active, take notice, give, connect and keep learning. Doing these actions every day helps support mental health and can be done in any way which works for you, she says.

“It’s also really important we don’t postpone joy. Don’t wait for practical things to be better. It’s really important to build joy every day, and the Five Ways are a sure way to do this.”

People who are struggling with their wellbeing have a number of support services they can contact.

The 1737 freephone service links directly to mental health professionals.

Westport’s doctors are also providing free services for anyone with flood-related issues.

The Flood Recovery Update is available on the Buller Emergency Management Facebook page and the Buller District Council YouTube channel.