Edgecumbe retirees near stop bank face new mortgage

An Edgecumbe resident forced to sell his home to the Bay of Plenty council is worried he won’t be able to buy another home with the proceeds.

Twelve Edgecumbe homeowners have to sell their properties to make way for a new stop bank.

The council will buy the land to put a new stopbank along the river banks. It said the 12 properties affected were already uninhabitable.

For 30 years, Reuben Cohen has owned his home on College Road, near where the Rangitāiki river stopbank breached.

He and his wife, both pensioners, were turfed out on 6 April by flooding, and their home was red-stickered.

Now, they are unlikely to ever return.

The Public Works Act permits the forced sale of land and says the price offered could not put the owner in a better or worse-off position.

The provision could be a problem however, when it came to the value of Edgecumbe property, Mr Cohen said.

“We’re living in a town that has cheaper housing than other places.”

He said they would have to get a mortgage to move anywhere more expensive – and their last one took 30 years to pay off.

“We should be able to have the mindset that we had before, and that is not guaranteed.”

Mr Cohen said there were costs associated with the forced sales that go beyond the financial.

“[There are] sentimental things that get left behind – there is grief.”

Mr Cohen said price offers between the homeowners and council were ongoing.

He said the negotiations were a delicate process and flooding victims needed to be looked after.

“It’s one thing to have a very large weather event. It’s another to have the distaster that followed it and some people, myself included, believe it was avoidable.”

Bay of Plenty Regional Council has started testing the ground to decide where to put the new stop-bank.

The council’s Mark Townsend said a new stop bank was his priority, as there was only a temporary one in place.

The town would have to be evacuated if there was another reasonable flood alert, he said.

The offers to homeowners were “fairly generous” because of the disruption it will cause them, Mr Townsend said.

“There are certainly many that are keen, and others that are less keen, but it’s part of the sensitive discussions that we’re having with each property owner.”

Mr Townsend could not say how many people had accepted the council offer.

The project is due to be completed next May.