Counting the cost of Cyclone Gabrielle

Published on 23 March 2023

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Northland Transportation Alliance says it will cost between $5 million and $10 million to repair Far North roads damaged by Cyclone Gabrielle but warns that total is likely to increase as detailed assessments of the work are finalised.

A total of 179 Far North roads were impacted by the February cyclone with 55 of those closed completely at some stage during the weather event. Many roads were affected by fallen trees and flooding, while others were more seriously damaged by slips. Northland Transportation Alliance (NTA) aims to have final estimates of repairs available by the end of March.

Waka Kotahi has confirmed that the Far North’s normal 69 per cent Financial Assist Rate contribution towards roading costs will be topped up through emergency works financial assistance to cover 100 per cent of the initial cyclone response. That will cover activities such as clearing debris, traffic control and so on. Financial assistance for longer term road repairs, such as to slips, is yet to be confirmed.

Other impacts to the Far North are still being assessed. The council has a team dedicated to the cyclone recovery. Its focus is on individual hardship, improving the resilience of vulnerable communities, and administering the Cyclone Gabrielle Mayoral Relief Fund.

This fund was established by Kahika (Mayor) Moko Tepania to provide one-off financial assistance to anyone in the Far North experiencing serious hardship resulting from the cyclone. The fund is financed through government contributions and donations from individuals and groups.

Thanks to generous donations from around the country, the total donated to the fund now sits at just over $400,000. This includes fundraising from four New Zealand councils that signed up to an Adopt a Community initiative launched by Local Government New Zealand. Waitaki, Tasman, and Clutha District Councils in the South Island, and Waipā District Council in the Waikatō each pledged to fundraise for those affected by the cyclone in the Far North.

So far, the Mayoral relief fund has received more than 50 applications for assistance and has paid out $36,792 to groups and individuals. Many of these initial payments have helped cover the cost of removing fallen trees, rubbish removal and skip hire, and roof and other minor repairs to houses not already covered by insurance.

The recovery team is now visiting those with more complex requests for financial assistance. These include issues relating to reinstating property access, assistance for small businesses, and requests for new dwellings. All applications are being assessed on a case-by-case basis by the Mayoral relief fund panel and the Mayor’s Office.

Anyone needing assistance can find out more and apply to the Mayoral relief fund via the council’s website. Applications close on Friday 31 March 2023. The website also details funding to assist businesses, reimburse community groups for emergency expenditure, and recovery grants for Māori communities.