Flood-affected communities miss out

23:48, Jul 17 2014

The Government is putting the welfare of farmers before that of the Northland communities devastated by the recent floods, Te Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira says.

The floods drove families from their homes, cut off some communities and left others without power while vast swaths of land were left submerged.

The flooding was also declared a medium-scale adverse event, making affected farmers eligible for assistance, including tax breaks, social welfare payments and mentoring.

The Government and Northland councils have each committed $100,000 to a Mayoral Relief Fund to help those affected.
Civil Defence Minister Nikki Kaye says hundreds of hardship grants have been handed out, and the Government will contribute more if necessary.

But Harawira says help is not getting through to the people who need it most.

He accused the Government of favouring the needs of farmers over those of the general community.

"Poor Maori communities devastated by the floods have been completely ignored in the first round of assistance while National bails out its own voters and that's a bloody disgrace," he said.

Harawira said flood relief "should focus firstly on people, not profits and most of the people affected by the floods live in heavily populated communities like Moerewa".

"Farmers deserve support too, no question, but Government's first relief should be for communities, not cows".

Kaye rejected the claims, saying that on top of handouts via the Mayoral Relief Fund, hundreds of hardship grants had been handed out. Staff of the Ministry of Social Development and Northland councils had been out knocking on doors to offer assistance.

"The reality is there's been quite an incredible response to try and ensure that those families that have been really affected are looked after," Kaye said.

Hardship grants were available to help people with expenses such as cleanup costs while the hardship grants were for essentials such as food and other household items.

The Government would top up the Mayoral Relief Fund if needed and she expected an update in the next few days.

"The main point that I have for Hone is there's been a huge effort across central and local government to not only put support systems in place and they are working ... but also to do outreach and that's all those doors that have been knocked on by MSD and council workers."

Kaye said Harawira should encourage anyone who needed help to come forward, saying she would personally follow up with the relevant agencies.

Meanwhile, State Highway 1 has been reopened after it was severed near Kawakawa when a 70-metre chunk of road collapsed during the storm on Saturday.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said authorities had "effectively built a new 100m section of highway from scratch in less than a week, and they've done it working in very challenging conditions".

The job of repairing the region's road network was far from over, Brownlee said.

"The transport agency is working closely with councils to assess the full extent of damage to ensure funding is available where and when it is most needed to re-establish transport links and support the region's recovery."