$30m recovery package announced
$200,000 cyclone recovery grant also announced for council
Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni was in Thames last week to announce the Government’s $30 million North Island Weather Events Response and Recovery Package plan, aimed at ensuring greater coordination and access to support in regions affected by the extreme weather events earlier this year.
The minister also made a secondary announcement of a $200,000 cyclone recovery grant to Thamescoromandel District Council which aims to boost awareness and visitor promotion in the peninsula.
Sepuloni started the day at the Thames-coromandel District Council Chambers, where at a stand-up with local media, flanked by Thamescoromandel mayor Len Salt and Destination Hauraki Coromandel general manager Hadley Dryden, she said the grant would help to “resource and deliver various visitor collaborative promotion and actions” to get the tourist destination “accessible and ready . . . and create a sense of normality” for local business operators. Operators also met with the minister behind closed doors to discuss the grant and the way forward for the community, which has suffered three years of financial impacts brought on by Covid lockdowns and road closures.
The minister then went on a walkabout on Pollen St in Thames, where she met business owners at the long-established Carson’s Books, followed by Antiques Thames, before an impromptu pop-in at the Work and Income office to meet staff.
The next stop was at the offices of Nga¯ti Maru Runanga, the biggest iwi in the Thames area. In response to the severe weather events earlier this year, they co-ordinated emergency responses at marae around the Coromandel.
The $30m plan was secured through the Budget 2023 North Island Weather Events Response and Recovery Package and will be used to support implementation.
The first round of contingency funding ($20.65m) will target support towards regions and population groups where existing levels of investment are not sufficient to meet emerging needs.
“We have a plan to make sure people’s needs will continue to be met as we recover from Cyclone Gabrielle, the Auckland flooding and other severe weather across the North Island,” Sepuloni said.
“We know that the psychosocial effects of disasters are very real and that most people who go through a disaster or extreme weather event have heightened stress and anxiety.
“On top of the mental health support announced already for affected regions, the Government will also provide support for volunteers and community workers suffering burnout, and personalised support and referral pathways for people who own land that has been classified as risk level Category 2 [and/or] and 3.
“We are also putting further support in place for students who’ve missed school so they can catch up on lost learning, and education and training for providers to support wha¯nau, rangatahi and tamariki with anxiety and mental wellbeing,” Sepuloni said.
“The Government will also put in
the resource needed to build the resilience, preparedness and strength of community and iwi organisations so that they’re prepared for future events.
“We have learned lessons following the Canterbury earthquakes, the Covid-19 pandemic and the Buller floods, and want to emphasise the importance of work focused on longterm recovery from large-scale disasters.
“Having a plan is important because it makes sure we are investing not only in the immediate recovery of these regions, but in the longerterm livelihoods of all those affected as well.
“Consultation has taken place so that agencies can understand the specific needs of each region. These insights were used to understand and inform where support was most needed so it can be delivered in the best, most efficient and meaningful way going forward,” Sepuloni said.
Just how the $30m package would be divided amongst cyclone-affected areas throughout the motu was put to Sepuloni, who said that was decided after consultations with relevant councils.
“The investment is very much guided by what we have been told by those at the coalface.”
Sepuloni said it was important to keep supporting the work done by social service providers like Nga¯ti Maru and other iwi.
The recovery plans actions cover the next two years and provide a framework for a co-ordinated crossagency approach to social recovery, bringing together existing and new actions into a comprehensive package that responds to identified areas of need.
When asked about timings pertaining to the release of funds, Sepuloni said it was imminent.
“It will happen as soon as possible. We want to get the money out the door and will start rolling [it] out before the election.”