The national state of emergency will continue for a further seven days, the prime minister Chris Hipkins has announced.
Speaking at parliament, Hipkins said extending the state of emergency would allow for a coordinated approach to the recovery phase. “We need strong and experienced coordination across all arms of government,” he said. “We are committed to a strong local voice informing recovery advice and priorities.”
A “lead minister” would be appointed to each of the most impacted regions. They will be asked to provide advice to the government from on the ground within a week.
A new cyclone recovery “task force”, led by Sir Brian Roche, will also be set up. “[It] will be structured similarly to that of Australia’s Queensland task force that was established in response to the floods,” said Hipkins. “It’s important to us that this recovery effort is led with direct input from those on the ground.”
Finance minister Grant Robertson will also become the new cyclone recovery minister. A new cabinet committee will be established to take decisions relevant to the recovery and it will include each of the ministers leading regional efforts.
“I saw first-hand the devastation in the Hawke’s Bay yesterday and I know other areas have also been hit hard,” Robertson said. “As finance minister I have been clear that we have the fiscal headroom to support our people and we will do that as we have done through all the other disasters we have guided this country though.”
Cabinet also agreed to a preliminary $50 million to get immediate support to cyclone-impacted businesses, workers and the primary sector.
“Ministers will finalise the distribution of this funding in the coming week, but this will include support to businesses to meet immediate costs and further assist with clean-up,” said Robertson. “We will coordinate the allocation of this funding with local business groups, iwi and local government in the affected regions.”
There will also be a $250 million top up to the emergency works budget of the land transport fund. This is short-term funding to help Waka Kotahi get the transport network operating again.
Transport minister Michael Wood said the government’s primary focus was on getting “lifeline roads open and reconnecting isolated communities”.
Robertson stressed that this was just initial financial support and there would almost certainly be more in the pipeline – potentially billions. Some of today’s funding comes from the forthcoming Budget.