National Party leader Christopher Luxon has visited the devastation in Hawke’s Bay after Cyclone Gabrielle struck the region and says the situation is “really heartbreaking”.
“People are actually in a state of shock and that’s completely understandable,” he said at a standup on Saturday.
“There are livelihoods that have been destroyed and there are more importantly families that have lost loved ones and so you’re very cognizant of just how people are feeling on the ground.”
At the same time, Luxon said we’ve seen the “very best” of New Zealanders, and praised those working long hours to respond to the complex emergency.
“We need to make sure that we’re getting in touch with all the uncontactable people, particularly getting into those communities that have been cut off and feeling very isolated, making sure that we’re getting critical infrastructure restored whether it’s power, water and communications,” he said.
“Then I think there’s a need for housing and that’s something the government won’t be able to solve on itself. It will have to partner with community housing providers as well as the public sector.”
After this, Luxon said we needed a conversation around wage subsidy support for businesses and growers, relaxed immigration settings so existing workforces like RSE workers can assist with the clean-up, and ensuring banks are being supportive of customers.
“There’s gonna be certainly a need for special legislation with emergency powers to crack through the consenting challenges and obviously assigning a dedicated minister to make sure they’re just 24/7 working on it and getting the recovery done as fast as we can,” he explained, and pointed to National’s experience with Kaikoura earthquake where a consortium of construction companies dealt with infrastructure.
“It’ll be Kaikoura on steroids,” he added.
“But actually that model is there. So let’s get that model starting to move… get those special powers and legislation passed so that we can get crashing through consenting and actually get things built and get things done for the people of this region.”
The forestry industry is under fire again after slash – the wooden debris left by forestry – caused extensive damage as it was pushed downstream in the floodwaters.
There have been calls for an urgent inquiry, and Luxon said he was “pretty supportive of having an independent review” around forestry.
“It’s the only sector I’ve seen that’s actually been able to essentially generate revenue and socialize the cost and if any other sector or any other business treated its own waste in that way, that would be utterly unacceptable,” he said.
“You just cannot have that happening every two years, and so either our penalties aren’t tough enough and the consequences aren’t being tough enough or people aren’t being enforced or held accountable enough, but we’ve got no tolerance for that.”
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