Saturday, November 27

Westport flood victims left in limbo


More than three months after severe flooding in Westport damaged hundreds of homes, many residents wonder when and if they will be able to return.

Pat Koti looks inside her yellow-sticker rental home that was damaged during the Westport floods.

Pat Koti looks inside her yellow-sticker rental home that was damaged during the Westport floods.
Photo: RNZ / Samantha Gee

The weather event exposed a city struggling with poverty and housing problems.

Westport man Pat Koti was lying on the couch watching a movie when he noticed his jandals floating past him during the July flood.

He had seen the water accumulate, but thought it would rain. So he put a roast in the oven and went back to watching The Lord of the Rings.

But the rain kept falling and then washed away his Peel Street rental, eventually destroying all of his belongings.

The house was painted yellow and the walls and floor need to be replaced. It has been stripped, but repair work has yet to begin.

“Well, they told me it was probably Christmas and I was like, ‘oh, it’s only a couple of months away’ and then they said ‘no, 2022’ so it could be then and a little more.”

Pat Koti in the garden of her rental home that she has been unable to return to since the floods.

Pat Koti in the garden of her rental home that she has been unable to return to since the floods.
Photo: RNZ / Samantha Gee

Pat Koti lives in temporary accommodation found by the property management company she was renting through. The one bedroom unit is the size of your old living room, it is part of a complex shared with 12 other people.

He had to get rid of his furniture and white dishes, leaving him alone with his clothes.

“I couldn’t afford content insurance, normally I would, but being on the benefit isn’t enough to pay for it. But then, you know, I wish I had it.”

He plans to hold out until after Christmas, then find another place to live, but there isn’t much out there.

A TradeMe search shows that there are three houses currently available for rent in Westport, which houses about 5,000 people.

If he couldn’t find a place to live, he would consider leaving town.

Mikaere Clarkson-Steele of the NUKU social enterprise ranks donations in Shop Zero, to support those affected by the floods.

Mikaere Clarkson-Steele of the NUKU social enterprise ranks donations in Shop Zero, to support those affected by the floods.
Photo: RNZ / Samantha Gee

Most days, he spends time helping out at Shop Zero on Westport’s main drag.

An initiative started by Mikaere Clarkson-Steele of the NUKU social enterprise, with other agencies, is helping to support those affected by the floods.

It has distributed 450 packages of donated goods, but its volunteers are also sitting down to talk to people as they clash during reconstruction.

“What we have been dealing with with Shop Zero is the mental state of the people, the Hindu, which has been the result of flooding or isolation due to the shutdown and Covid,” Clarkson-Steele said.

It also shed light on the need in Westport.

“The insurance and the uninsured have also stood out and it really shows that Westport was already in poverty behind closed doors, but the flooding made it public.”

Mikaere Clarkson-Steele with Shop Zero volunteers outside the Westport store.

Mikaere Clarkson-Steele with Shop Zero volunteers outside the Westport store.
Photo: RNZ / Samantha Gee

Buller Mayor Jamie Cleine said about 100 of the 470 flood-affected residents in Westport were uninsured.

A recent outreach operation saw community boaters visit all red and yellow tagged homes to check on residents.

“There were multiple reasons for that project, to obviously identify people who haven’t come forward in terms of need for assistance. So it was a bit of a check on psychosocial issues, people struggling at home, that sort of thing.

“It identified a number of people who are living in situations that are not really sustainable, given that we know this is going to be 12 months or more,” Cleine said.

It highlighted people who lived in moldy homes, without adequate cooking facilities or access to a shower.

“It was a good project to identify that level of need, control it a bit more, and make sure that the available support really reaches the right people.”

Wellness and Social Recovery Manager Shayne Barry said several community connectors have been hired and will be coordinated by Maori healthcare provider Poutini Waiora to help affected residents.

“We have a lot of people who have asked for that help, that support and therefore they will be there to help people navigate through the paperwork, connecting them with the right agencies for support and they will be a measure of how we are doing. facing “.

She said they will be the conduit for various community groups doing incredible work in Westport as it recovers from the floods.


www.rnz.co.nz

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