New Zealand pledges more than $1b for cyclone and flood recovery

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Wellington: The New Zealand government says it will allocate $NZ1.1 billion ($1.03 billion) to help communities recover from a cyclone and floods that lashed the country this year.

The funds from the 2023 budget are to cover “basics” of rebuilding roads, rail and schools, as well as flood protection, it said in a statement.

People stand on a rooftop of a home waiting to be winched to safety by helicopter in the Esk Valley, near Napier, New Zealand, in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle.Credit: AP

Cyclone Gabrielle devastated parts of the North Island in February, killing 11, after flash floods prompted by record-breaking rainfall hit the country’s biggest city, Auckland, in January.

Treasury estimated the damage from the two extreme weather events could hit $NZ14.5 billion, second behind only the 2011 earthquakes that severely damaged the city of Christchurch. Of this, $NZ5 to $NZ7.5 billion related to public infrastructure.

“This is about doing the basics – repairing and rebuilding what has been damaged and making smart investments, including $NZ100 million of protection funding to ensure future events don’t cause the same devastation,” Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said.

“Cyclone recovery is a core focus of this year’s budget, and today’s package adds to the $NZ890 million already provided in a rolling maul of repair works and business support,” he said in the statement.

The spending “will get roads, rail and schools back to where they were before the extreme weather hit this year so communities can get back to normal as soon as possible.”

Despite the natural disasters, the government has said it will not introduce any major new taxes to fund recovery in this year’s budget, to be delivered on Thursday, after pressure from the main opposition party, the centre-right National Party.

Opposition Leader Christopher Luxon endorsed the infrastructure package, calling it a “no-brainer”, but criticised its lack of clarity for homeowners and farmers worried about their properties and fearing they could be red-stickered.

“If you are a grower or a farmer you might be wondering what is in this package for you,” Luxon said.

In addition to recovery, the funding is meant for child mental health support in the hard-hit Hawkes Bay and Tairawhiti regions, jobs training and flood protection, the government said.

Gabrielle, which hit the North Island’s northernmost region and tracked down the east coast, caused widespread destruction.

Insurance companies in March reported receiving 40,000 claims worth around $NZ890 million for damage from the cyclone.

As much as $100m will go towards practical flood protection infrastructure like stopbanks. The government will work with council to make a plan to protect against future flooding. This was on top of the support the government provides to councils to repair and rebuild following a disaster – this including covering 60 per cent of costs of damaged essential infrastructure owned by councils.

Reuters, with

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