Govt chips in $5m to help buy back Matatā homes

The Whakatāne District Council wants to make a district plan change which would rezone the Awatarariki fanhead including Matatā as uninhabitable. Photo: RNZ / Brad White

Joint funding has been confirmed for a property acquisition package which aims to end the long and difficult process of addressing the debris flow risk to residents and property owners on the Awatarariki fanhead in Matatā.

The Government has this week announced its commitment of $5m towards a collaborative arrangement with the Whakatāne District Council and Bay of Plenty Regional Council to co-fund a managed retreat that will enable at-risk property owners to sell their properties and relocate to a safer environment.

Mayor Tony Bonne appreciates the partnership approach from Government and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

He says the safety of residents has been paramount in arriving at this decision, which would allow properties to be purchased at market value, at the time an offer is made, without any discount for the known debris flow risk.

“Offers would also include contributions to legal and relocation costs and offset mortgage break fees, where relevant.

"Owner participation is voluntary, but we believe the managed retreat package offers a fair solution which will allow property owners to move on with their lives."

"Council elected members recognise the depth of feeling Awatarariki owners have for their properties and we acknowledge that some people will be reluctant to sell.

"However, we hope that they will approach this process with open minds and realise that this one-off opportunity will provide fair restitution and a way forward which will protect people from the threat of future debris flows."

General Manager Planning and Infrastructure David Bewley says officials from the Department of Internal Affairs completed a review last year of the Council’s indicative business case for a managed retreat from the Awatarariki debris flow hazard.

"This confirmed the risk analyses and peer reviews were robust; that no engineering solution or other risk reduction option exists; and that no practical land swap option was available.

“Cost estimates included in the indicative business case had been updated to reflect market movement and inflation, but new, independent market values would be established as part of the acquisition process, and a disputes process would also be provided, should any owners disagree with the independent valuations.”

David says a combined hearing on the proposed plan changes to the Whakatāne District Council’s District Plan and Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s Regional Natural Resources Plan was delayed until late-2019 to allow residents time to consider a managed retreat proposal.




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