In a public-excluded section of its final meeting for the year, Masterton District Council [MDC] voted to participate in the government’s Future of Severely Affected Land [Fosal] voluntary buyout programme for properties severely impacted by the North Island weather events at the start of this year.
The decision made last week relates to the fate of nine Tīnui properties that were badly damaged in the serious flooding that the small community 30 minutes east of Masterton experienced during Cyclone Gabrielle in February.
These nine properties, which include a total of 12 dwellings, had been provisionally assessed as category 3, meaning they are not safe to live in due to the risk of flooding.
Under the Fosal funding arrangement, the government and MDC will each contribute 50 per cent of the agreed cost of buying out the properties after insurance, EQC, and any other payments have been deducted.
The estimated maximum cost to the council of participating in Fosal is $2.5 million – including the cost of buying land and/or dwellings on the impacted properties and any subsequent building demolition or removal that is required – will come from loan funding, and is estimated to result in a 0.75 per cent increase in MDC rates in the 2024/25 financial year – which equates to an extra $26 per year for a median value urban residential property.
The council finished consulting with the community about participating in the Fosal scheme on December 4, but the results of the consultation are not yet publicly available.
An MDC spokesperson said the discussion about the decision was not open to the public to protect the privacy of those affected.
Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell said it was a difficult decision to make, and the discussion during the public excluded session was” robust and well-considered by all involved”, but he is pleased with the outcome.
“I can understand the concerns raised by some members of the community in our consultation on the issue, particularly around the idea of setting a moral precedent, but I am confident that this will not be the case. The government created a programme that councils were invited to participate in, and this is possibly the only time the government will make this type of financial response available to impacted communities,” Caffell said.
“I believe we have an obligation to this community, not only to help them get back on their feet but to ensure they can access the government funding being offered.
“These families are still very much picking up the pieces in getting their lives back together, and knowing that this council decision will be a massive help in that respect is huge, both for council and the wider community.
“Having said that, there was a feeling around the council table that in future instances of this type, central government should be prepared to pick up the bill because councils simply don’t have the financial resources to continually dip into their ever-diminishing funds.”
The Wairarapa Recovery Office will now work with MDC to confirm the policy on how individual properties will be treated and will continue its conversations with the impacted property owners to confirm provisional categorisations and the next steps in the voluntary buyout process.