Mayor opts for storm resilience rather than retreat

Last Updated : 09 May 2023
230129 Building Inspectors Mangere

Last week, Mayor Wayne Brown and Councillors met to discuss how Auckland Council proposes to engage with Wellington as central government develops a national policy response to locations severely affected by flooding and land instability, including managed retreat.

At the Governing Body workshop, the Mayor said central government needs to provide leadership around storm-related compensation, and any mandates must be properly funded.

“Affected Aucklanders want clear communication, direction, and leadership from central and local government to help them make decisions about where they live. People want to know who moves and who pays,” Mayor Brown said.

“Before doing good, we need to refrain from doing any harm. In practical terms, when the council says ‘no’ to any building work or development at risk of flooding, that decision has to carry more weight.”

The Mayor maintains that Auckland Council’s position on resource and building consents in flood-prone areas should not be so easily overturned.

In many cases, where houses were allowed to be built in areas with a history of flooding and land instability, the lessons of the past had been forgotten, central government mandates had change local building and planning rules adversely, or Auckland Council’s position had been overruled, often in the Environment Court.

Three months ago, Auckland experienced the first of two severe weather events that caused flooding and land instability throughout the region with a devastating and lasting impact for many communities and individuals.

Sadly, some Aucklanders are still unable to access their homes, and for others their homes are accessible but remain uninhabitable. As the clean-up continues, people already in limbo are considering their housing options, including remediation, rebuilding, or relocation.

Previous public engagement found confusion about the roles and responsibilities of central and local government, and property owners.

“Any use of limited public funds needs to be prudent and consistent with public benefit. Our current position is that Auckland Council is not a guarantor of private property interests, and we are generally not responsible for compensating property owners in case of loss due to a severe weather event or natural disaster,” Mayor Brown said.

“Thinking about what happens next and our respective roles and responsibilities as part of a complex national response in no way diminishes our commitment to supporting those hardest hit by the Auckland Anniversary floods and Cyclone Gabrielle.”

At the Governing Body workshop, the Mayor stated he would prefer that Auckland Council work with property owners, not on managed retreat but building storm resilience, developing solutions tailored for each site and community.

“In the long run, we can better serve Aucklanders by adapting to life in a changing climate. We need to work with community groups, not over the top of them. I want to see the council join forces with local residents and mana whenua to monitor and manage flood risks in and around urban streams,” Mayor Brown said.
“We must learn from these catastrophic weather events and start doing things differently. If we rebuild, we have to build better. I think we can continue to develop some flood-prone areas of Auckland, but only if flood-resistant design and construction is utilised, and the appropriate stormwater infrastructure is in place.”

The Government is working on a range of legislation and policy – including the National Adaptation Plan, Climate Change Adaptation Bill, and other responses to severe flooding and land instability – that will form a broader framework to address the impact of extreme weather events.

Our key efforts to support the storm and cyclone recovery include:

  • Legislation and policy: Auckland Council will help develop a joined-up approach between central and local government, with Wellington taking the lead on managed retreat and storm-related insurance issues.
  • Annual Budget 2023/24: A proposed Storm Response Fund with an additional $20m each year to improve Auckland’s preparedness and response to severe weather events.
  • Long-term plan: A proposed $1.2b in storm-related infrastructure involving Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, and Watercare.
  • Analysis: A work programme is underway to investigate flooding impacts, implications and improvements to public policy and infrastructure settings.
  • Tāmaki Makaurau Recovery Office: Auckland Council has appointed Mat Tucker as Group Recovery Manager for the Auckland Anniversary floods and Cyclone Gabrielle.
  • Community initiatives: The Office of the Mayor is working with local boards to identify storm and cyclone-related issues and community-led solutions. 
  • Auckland Council Emergency Relief Fund: To provide rates relief.
  • Auckland Together Fund: To help communities recover and rebuild.
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