Westport residents displaced from their flooded homes all have a bed for now but a shortage of tradies and materials will hamper their return home, the districts mayor says.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will visit the West Coast town on Tuesday to see the recovery efforts after half the towns population had to be evacuated from their homes during a major flood on July 17.
The total number of red-stickered houses has yet to be determined but about 100 are confirmed so far. About 400 homes have been yellow-stickered.
Buller mayor Jamie Cleine said the recovery effort was an evolving picture.
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All the evacuees had either returned home or been housed in temporary accommodation such as motels or Airbnbs, he said.
Some insurance companies were providing motorhomes for people to live in on their sections.
Many of the yellow-stickered properties would not be habitable until they were repaired, cleaned up and essential items such as beds replaced, Cleine said.
I am hearing anecdotally there is an issue getting contractors and materials as well as appliances like fridges, freezers and heat pumps because of supply lines into New Zealand.
Contractors and out-of-town responders were staying in other towns like Punakaiki and travelling in and out of Westport due to the accommodation shortage.
A new band of hard-working volunteers is helping to strip flood-damaged Westport homes of their sodden carpets.
The state of emergency would be in place until Friday, the mayor said.
A public meeting for residents was held on Monday evening and live-streamed on the Buller Emergency Management Facebook page. Representatives from insurance companies, the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), utility services, and emergency services attended.
Cleine told the meeting 14 Defence Force troops would stay in town to help collect waste.
About 150 payments had already been made from the mayoral relief fund, with more due to go out on Tuesday morning.
Cleine said he would ask the prime minister for more support from the Government during her visit to Westport on Tuesday.
Buller Emergency Management
Sodden and contaminated household items are put out on kerbs, ready to be picked up by volunteers and dumped after last weekend’s flooding in Westport.
On Thursday, the Government announced it would contribute another $1 million to help the West Coast town, on top of the $300,000 announced during the weekend of the flooding.
Civil Defence incident controller Sean Judd said a team would visit all yellow-stickered homes to check welfare needs and answer questions.
Recovery will take months. We will be around for months to support you with what you need, we are not going anywhere, he told the meeting.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) would set up a temporary village on a large paddock in Domett St for displaced residents but that might not be ready for a couple of months, Cleine said.
It would likely include portable cabins for families and single workers.
Buller mayor Jamie Cleine says the challenge is getting enough tradies and materials to help flood-stricken residents return to their homes.
An MBIE spokesperson said the ministry was still gathering information on the demand for temporary accommodation.
It had a fleet of purpose-built portable cabins that could be deployed in response to a natural disaster.
The Defence Force had been helping council contractors clear rubbish from flooded homes. Contractors increased the number of trucks from three to 12 to cope with the workload.
Cleine said more than 870 tonnes about nine months worth of waste for Westport had been collected by Monday and taken to the disused Holcim cement plant for sorting. It would then be sent to landfill in Grey or Westland.
He estimated another 1000 tonnes was still to be collected.
Stu Gorrie/Garden City Helicopters
This aerial photograph of Westport shows the scale of the flooding.
The Westport transfer station was still accepting flood damaged items for free. A separate collection for hazardous items like asbestos would be done by specialists, he said.
Buller Health had to be evacuated as flood waters rose on July 17. Staff and 17 patients were moved to Club Buller, where a makeshift ward was set up, and eight or nine patients were taken to Greymouths Te Nikau Hospital the next day.
West Coast District Health Board incident controller Phil Wheble said some catering staff moved back into the health centre on Monday to prepare food for patients and Meals on Wheels.
Most services would move back on Tuesday, including the Buller Medical Centre, community mental health, and blood testing. Radiology would return on Wednesday.
Club Buller would continue to house the temporary hospital ward, and acute assessment and maternity services. Three patients were in the temporary ward on Monday.
Wheble said he hoped Buller Health’s inpatient ward would reopen later this week after being clinically cleaned and restocked.
Meanwhile, Westport Airports runway lights had been out since the flood, restricting flights to daylight hours.
Residents needing help can call 03 789 7999.