Just over a month ago, our district along with many parts of the North Island was hit by Cyclone Gabrielle. At the end of this month, the national state of emergency for the Coromandel Peninsula., along with Northland and Auckland will end.
It’s been a hellish six weeks as we responded to the immediate event and then began moving into recovery (short, medium and long term). The focus throughout is looking after our communities.
I’ve been asked if our Council is doing enough, could we be doing more and what if our focus is misdirected. Here’s a breakdown so far of our action:
• We’ve met and put in formal requests for further financial support to the Prime Minister, Minister Wood (Transport Minister and Minister for Recovery for the Coromandel), Minister McAnulty (Emergency Management), Minister Allan (Regional Development), Minister Mahuta Minister for Recovery for the Coromandel) asking for our local and State Highways to be prioritised for investment in repairs and long-term resilience, as well as operational funding for staffing to minimise ratepayer burden.
• The Prime Minister has given me his assurance that his government was committed to the resilience of our transportation links so that communities aren’t at such risk of isolation in extreme weather as they have been.
• We’ve been lobbying Waka Kotahi/NZTA and just been advised our roading Financial Assistance Rate (FAR) has been increased from 75% to 91 % with business cases required to see whether we can get to 100% on some aspects of damage. That doesn’t get the roads open faster, but it does lessen the financial impact on the district.
• We’re not just pushing for repairing our damaged roads and our State Highway; we’re looking at investment from Waka Kotahi/NZTA and the government for a Transport Plan which includes what air and sea links can be put into place to keep supply lines open in the short to longer term.
• We’ve put a huge effort into immediate support for our business community. We’ve got a business support package underway that includes our Mayoral Disaster Relief Fund and the portion of the government’s $1.4 million Business Recovery Grant that our Council is administering under the Business Disaster Relief Fund. We’ll be distributing that funding over the next few weeks.
• Applications to the Mayoral Fund closed last week, and we’ve had a number of applications, and we will accordingly distribute financial support. We’ve had significant donations from the government as well as media company Stuff. We’ve also had other donations, like $20,000 from Westpac and $3,237 donated by people in Waiheke Island who have a Coromandel connection. Thank all of you for your support. These funds aren’t the end.
• We just appointed a Recovery Manager, with two key areas of work - helping develop and implement the Transport Plan - and address how we deal with disposal of rubbish and recycling and commercial waste from off the district.
There’s going to be significant levels of investment needed, particularly into our roading network. Repairs are still being done. It’s not going to be an easy or quick fix – but there is willingness and collaboration to build back - and build back better with more resilience.
There’s still a lot of work to do. If people need help, we’re still here with support from other agencies and central government. Please let us know.
Caption: TCDC's Chief Executive, Aileen Lawrie and Mayor Len Salt explain our current situation to Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.