OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER FROM DAVID CUNLIFFE, LABOUR LEADER
Rt Hon John Key
9 May 2014
A PROPOSED RESPONSE TO FLOODING
No-one could have foreseen what Cantabrians have and are still facing. This is made worse by the recent floods and landslips caused by flooding. Many residents are reaching breaking point.
The most important factor is the wellbeing of residents. We can do more to support them. We simply must act now and act together.
I believe all political parties should work in partnership with local authorities to offer immediate and enduring solutions and give confidence and certainty to the residents so that they can plan their lives and their futures. We recognise that those whose lives are in disarray need progress and certainty as soon as possible, while fair solutions that ensure beyond the next few months are also needed. We make the following suggestions which we would like to discuss further with you for the benefit of those affected.
There is a need to extend the temporary housing support for earthquake and flood effected residents. The Temporary Accommodation Support payment should cover all those displaced by flooding and flood-related landslip issues. There is an urgent need for more temporary accommodation.
We know that for some, returning to their homes will not be possible for some time. The only fair resolution is a buy-out option from central government. This should be made with urgency.
The government needs to exercise leadership and direction of EQC and have direct engagement with insurance companies. Individual residents cannot be left to deal with these organisations on their own. The Residential Advisory service should be extended and resourced to deal with flooding cases. Support is needed for financial advice, counselling and advocacy, particularly for vulnerable people.
Immediate Solutions – Armed Forces
The resources of the Councils are stretched. Central Government could better support them and local residents. A secondment of resources from the Armed Forces would be appropriate and would provide immense reassurance and practical relief.
Clarification on roles and responsibilities
Cantabrians don’t need boundary battles. They need clarity over roles and responsibilities. An integrated unit dealing with the flooding issues comprising Councils, Health Board, EQC, insurance representatives, SCIRT, MfE and CERA should be established.
Clear guidance regarding building consents for properties in flood-prone areas must be provided. Statutory powers could be given in the implementation of the Natural Environment Recovery Programme.
The Health Board needs to be resourced to support public health issues such as mould, toxic silt, sewerage and related health risks. The advice of your Chief Science Advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, has said that there are many ongoing mental health issues faced by Cantabrians.
Orders in Council
Labour will support Orders in Council to fast-track on remediation, provide certainty for residents and real progress on resolution.
A Flood Taskforce has been established and will report to Council soon. I believe that the points in this letter will be consistent with the taskforce findings and recommendations. However, I commit to genuine partnership with the Councils and working with your government to progress the recommendations.
This is a test for all of us. On behalf of Labour, we want to walk this journey with you, for the wellbeing of the people of Christchurch.