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One year on from the floods – Wayne Brown

The Auckland Anniversary Floods and Cyclone Gabrielle caused damage across the region. “Almost one year on, the impact for our communities continues. As a city, we will still be recovering from this in years to come,” says Mayor Wayne Brown.

Auckland Anniversary Weekend

“This Anniversary Weekend will be tough for a lot of people. My thoughts are with those who suffered the loss of a loved one, their livelihood, or their home in the most devastating flooding Auckland has seen, certainly in my lifetime,” says Mayor Brown.

“We learned a lot from these catastrophic events. There is still work to be done, but I am confident that we can reduce Auckland’s exposure to risk when, and not if, something like this happens again.”

Auckland Council has been working with communities to help mark this milestone in the ways they want, which include memorials, community days, morning teas, and wellbeing sessions across the region over the next two months.

It’s a milestone that means different things to different people-for some it’s a time of gratitude, for others it’s a stark reminder they’re still in limbo.

Flood and cyclone recovery

The first Category 3 property buy-outs in Auckland were completed in December.

“Dealing with storm-damaged private property was new territory for local government. With the critical policy and Government co-funding now in place, the buy-out scheme should move quickly. Our progress is in line with other affected regions, but it is regrettable that it has taken this long,” says Mayor Brown.

The recovery work is complex and requires a lot of resources. In Auckland, the damage was widespread, from the top of the region to the bottom, and the needs of these communities are diverse.

Auckland’s programme of repairs to public infrastructure and facilities will take several years, with many of the bigger projects requiring business cases and Government budget approval.

“A critical issue to work through is how we partner with Government and others to deliver a more resilient region, given that our infrastructure needs a lot of work. We have to step up and exercise better management of public assets and services for Aucklanders, but the Government has to meet us halfway,” says Mayor Brown.

It will take a full 10 years to complete most projects.

“As we get through a lot of this work, it will become clear that we can’t address everyone’s needs, particularly general flooding damage that doesn’t pose a serious risk to life. We must be in a better financial position to adapt and recover from future shocks,” says Mayor Brown.

Strengthening financial and physical resilience

The impact of the Auckland Anniversary Floods and Cyclone Gabrielle is reflected in the Mayor’s commitment to strengthening the region’s financial and physical resilience over the next decade.

In the Mayoral Proposal for Auckland’s Long-term Plan 2024-34, the Mayor advocates a comprehensive approach to building resilience that encompasses risk reduction, preparedness, and better reconstruction.

The Making Space for Water programme illustrates this approach.

“Over the next 10 years, I am proposing to invest billions in the quality and security of our infrastructure. This includes renewing roads and upgrading bridges, creating blue-green networks in critical flood-risk areas, and supporting community-led resilience,” says Mayor Brown.

“This investment will help save lives, enhance our resilience to disasters, and should provide some reassurance for Aucklanders one year on from the floods.

“If we want to reduce the impact of future shocks on Auckland households and businesses, we must undertake planning and investment to secure the city’s financial position. That means protecting our investments from all hazards and ensuring the infrastructure that Aucklanders rely on every day is secure.”

Auckland’s publicly-owned strategic assets are geographically concentrated in one region, including public transport and water networks, regional facilities such as stadiums, the Port of Auckland, and Auckland International Airport Limited.

“We need to think seriously about reducing Auckland’s exposure to risk by diversifying our asset base across different geographic regions, industries, and asset classes. If our city’s strategic assets end up under water, which is entirely possible, we’ll have nothing to fall back on,” says Mayor Brown.

Next month, Aucklanders can Have Your Say on the council’s priorities and how they will be funded for the next 10 years when the Long-term Plan goes to public consultation from February 28 to March 28.

As part of the Long-term Plan, the Mayor is proposing to lease the Port of Auckland’s port operations and invest the multi-billion-dollar proceeds in a council-owned, diversified regional wealth fund. The council’s remaining shareholding in Auckland International Airport Limited (AIAL) could also be transferred to the proposed Auckland Future Fund.

The potential benefits are multi-layered, including reduced risk exposure, a better return on investment, and preserving the value of public assets over time. A portion of the fund’s higher yield would be reinvested, harnessing the power of compounding returns, much like KiwiSaver. More importantly, returns would be set aside for self-insurance and to secure access to funding.

This year alone, the cost of insurance for council-owned assets increased by 44 percent. Being able to access funds in times of crisis is a major challenge for households and organisations alike, including Auckland Council.

“Having predictable, pre-arranged funding is also critical for building physical and social resilience, including quality infrastructure, and helping communities cope with future shocks,” says Mayor Brown.

“Our financial planning must follow emerging good practices to ensure the council’s investments are good value for money and lead to better post-disaster outcomes for Aucklanders.”

The lessons learned

“Procrastination makes easy things hard and hard things harder,” says Mayor Brown.

“The Auckland Anniversary Floods were an important wake-up call. Looking back over the past year, I’m proud of the critical work and planning that’s been done, which was long overdue, and the mammoth effort from teams across the wider council group.

“I also want to acknowledge the outstanding response from our communities during the floods and the volunteers who showed up for those in need, providing food and necessities, opening their own homes, and helping with the clean-up.”

The council’s emergency management Prioritisation Plan, which includes recommendations from the Auckland Flood Response Review led by former police commissioner Mike Bush, is now two-thirds complete.

The plan’s 29 actions cover improvements to planning, leadership and governance, operational procedures, capability, partnerships, assets and systems, and communications.

“These events have taught me that we must all be good kaitiaki of our region, our resources, and our people,” says Mayor Brown.

“I want to reassure Aucklanders that we can all adapt to change, no matter how drastic or unexpected.”

 

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