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Source: Auckland Council

Negotiations with Crown on proposed buyouts of Category 3 properties continue
Council has brought in additional staff, including professional expertise from Australia, to assist with process

Auckland Council is continuing to communicate with homeowners who are part of the Government’s property categorisation process, following the unprecedented weather events of early 2023.

Group Recovery Manager Mat Tucker says engagement with property owners has helped provide clarity on the scale and prioritisation of categorisation across the region.

“The information that property owners have provided through the Flood and Landslide Registration form has been vital in moving the risk assessment forward, and I’d like to thank everyone that has engaged with the process so far. The homeowner information, combined with modelling data and council information, has given us a really good steer on where we need to be focussing our resources first.

“We’re taking an evidence-based approach to categorisation, and so far the evidence indicates there will be larger clusters of Category 2 and Category 3 properties around Henderson, Rānui and Swanson, around Milford, and the Mt Roskill area. We’re also working closely with Kāinga-Ora on technical assessments to categorise their properties in line with the rest of the region, with priority being given to affected areas in Māngere.

Tucker says that for property owners that are likely to be Category 2 or Category 3, a site assessment is needed to understand the future risk to life at the property.
“This assessment looks at whether there are changes that can be made on the property or surrounding area to reduce the future risk of serious flooding or landslides to the home. This includes considering Auckland Council’s proposed “Making Space for Water” initiatives. If there aren’t any practical and financially viable solutions and there is a risk to life, then it’s likely the property will be Category 3.

“There has been comparison with the Hawke’s Bay, where they’ve been able to move groups of homes en masse from Category 2C to Category 1 once the repairs are made to something like a stopbank. Auckland’s denser built urban environment and land typography is very different, so in Auckland we need to go property by property to assess whether there are any options to reduce the risk to the people living there.

“Our priority through the risk assessments is to identify Category 3 homes as quickly as possible, recognising that these are the people with the greatest need for certainty about their future.

“When we started this process in mid-June, we said it would take around six weeks to get back to property owners once they’d provided their property information to us, and that’s what we’re tracking to. We understand that we can’t move fast enough for people that are living their lives in limbo, but we are working as hard as we can to get to the people who need us the most.

“These risk assessments are happening in parallel with our negotiations with central government through which we hope to agree funding and policy arrangements for proposed buyouts. There is a lot of detail to work out – how properties are valued, how purchases will work, and who will foot the bill for costs like legal fees and removing homes.

“It’s important to remember there’s no precedent or legal obligation for buyouts – the policy to do this work and the systems and processes to do this don’t exist. And importantly, the funding doesn’t exist. Any property buyouts will need significant funding from ratepayers and taxpayers. Auckland Council will likely need to consult with Aucklanders on the cost of the programme and the financial commitment needed.

“We’re walking a fine line here between moving as fast as possible to give private property owners the certainty they so desperately need, and making quality decisions that are the right ones for Auckland long-term.”

Geotechnical investigations progressing for west coast beach communities

Mr Tucker says good progress is being made in the communities of Piha, Karekare and Muriwai where large-scale geotechnical investigations are underway to determine the ongoing safety of homes in landslide affected areas.

“We’ll have a clearer idea of the scale of Category 2 and Category 3 properties in Piha, Karekare and Muriwai when the geotechnical studies underway in these areas are complete over the next few months. The property owners in these study areas have a slightly different process to get their category, and we’ve been keeping them informed as the geotechnical work has progressed.”

“Property owners within the study area in Muriwai have been provided with a timeline for this work, and we’re pleased we’ve been able to confirm that they’ll receive their initial property categories in late August.”

The geotechnical investigations for Piha and Karekare are due for completion at the end of September.

Certainty for Category 1 properties

Category 1 homes are now being identified as a result of the information being supplied by property owners and our desktop assessment.

“We’ve been able to start confirming groups of properties as Category 1. Where the property owner’s information and self-assessment as Category 1 aligns with our technical assessment, we can give these people some welcome certainty, and conclude the categorisation process for them.”

Thousands of site assessments needed

Of the thousands of homes in the risk assessment process, Auckland Council estimates 5,000 individual flood assessments will be required plus another 250 geotechnical inspections.

The first site assessments for flood affected properties will begin from the week of 14 August, with geotechnical assessments expected to begin from the 21 August.
“Property owners should be prepared that this scale of site assessments will take months to complete. The skills shortage in the technical fields of flood and geotechnical engineering are a real hinderance to us being able to do this work faster.

“A challenge we’re dealing with is sharing a limited number of specialists with affected regions – professionals that were in short supply even before the disasters. In the case of geotech, we’re contracting Australia-based teams to help with the desktop work because there’s just not enough resources available here.”

Following site visits, the council expects to begin conversations with homeowners about buyouts of Category 3 homes later this year. This timeframe will be influenced by the completion of government negotiations, and the outcome of any consultation with Aucklanders and Governing Body decisions.

Support for affected homeowners

Auckland Council agreed a rates relief programme to support residents in need with 100 per cent rates relief for uninhabited storm damaged homes. Red placarded houses as of 30 June 2023 will receive 100 per cent rates relief for the full 2023/2024 rating year. Homeowners that received a yellow or white placard can apply for rates relief if they are unable to live in their home. For more information visit OurAuckland.