Flood-hit Edgecumbe residents are unlikely to be home for Christmas, according to a report.
Ngati Awa Volunteer Army operations coordinator Alex Walker said repairs for a number of homes had not started, claiming insurance as the main reason behind the delays.
“I think the building process is going to take longer than expected. The council has got by December to have this all done; it's not going to happen. I can see February, March next year,” Walker told Radio NZ.
Things have been “heart-straining for most of the community,” but Walker said residents are getting there. “It's still a slow, slow-going thing,” she said.
Walker, from Kawerau, left everything when she heard of the flooding. She has been helping NAVA and the Māori wardens provide protection and a drop-in centre for people to come for help or just a place to vent.
According to Radio NZ, so far around 35 families have been able to move back in, which is just over 10% of those forced to flee. The 15 homes left uninhabitable on College Road and Rata Ave still lie broken, waiting for demolition.
Whakatane mayor Tony Bonne told Radio NZ the situation has been handled “really well compared to other disasters” the country had faced.
“It's never fast enough for those victims but we are getting there,” Bonne said. “Where we're having some holdups, unfortunately, is the insurance companies. Some insurance companies have been fantastic to the people and others have been dragging the chain a little bit.”
The mayor said he would like to see a review of insurance companies and how they handle disasters – particularly with Christchurch residents still not settled seven years on.
“Maybe we need to talk to central government and the Insurance Council and see if we can get some sort of legislation when there's a disaster that they've got a maximum time to settle,” he said.
Bonne initially set the goal of everyone home by Christmas but now expects only around half the town will be back, the report said.
Radio NZ said Insurance Council chief executive Tim Grafton
disagreed with Bonne and said at least 80% of people will be back in their homes by Christmas. Ninety percent of insurance claims are expected to have been completed by then and the vast majority of those were for work managed by insurance companies, he said.
Edgecumbe claimants home for Christmas
Flood-hit Edgecumbe residents return home