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‘I’m intending to stay’: Bluecliffs resident ignores evacuation

The Southland App

08 March 2024, 4:05 AM

‘I’m intending to stay’: Bluecliffs resident ignores evacuationPhoto: Emergency Management Southland/Supplied

A Southland township preparing to evacuate under a state of emergency will not be completely vacated when the last car rolls out on Friday.

One woman will be staying behind because of unanswered questions and the way the situation has been handled.

Uli Sirch lives at Bluecliffs, a coastal hamlet of just under 20 houses which has been plagued by erosion issues.

Batch owner and community spokesperson Glenn Puna said permanent residents feel a bit sad and let down by the accomodation arrangements that have been made for them ahead of the evacuation. Photo: ODT/Supplied

Residents have lived under a state of emergency for the past month while work has begun to protect houses from the nearby river.

On Wednesday, Emergency Management Southland announced it would be turning its attention to a dumpsite which is also at risk to erosion, and could contain explosives.

Sirch said residents were blindsided by the news they would have to leave within two days.

“I’m just really getting angrier by the minutes because it has just been such a shambles and putting me under so much pressure and stress, which is absolutely unnecessary,” Sirch said.

“We were told the dumpsite would be cleared up at some stage, but never has there been a date set."

Running a honey business from her property had become a “nightmare” for Sirch who said it wasn’t possible to get organised in the allotted time.

She wondered how she would manage invoices, orders and deliveries for the three-week period while living offsite.

But the main reason Sirch had decided to ignore the evacuation was because she still hadn’t received an answer in writing about liability

“They keep saying the contractor is insured, but we haven’t been told in writing he’s actually insured for digging explosives,” she said.

“Does the insurer know what he’s doing?

“I’m intending to stay here until my questions are answered.”

Permanent residents at Bluecliffs have been told they can return home between 6.30pm and 8pm every evening while the job is completed.

They are being put up in nearby Tūātapere for that period.

Sirch said she cannot understand why people haven’t been given the opportunity to return in the evenings once work has finished for the day and stay at their own properties.

Meanwhile, Bluecliffs bach owner and community spokesperson Glenn Puna said things were quiet on Friday morning.

He planned to check in on people and mow lawns for residents before departing.

“Everyones a bit sad and a bit let down with the accommodation. The arrangements that have been set are not ideal.”

Puna said there hadn’t been any compensation or food vouchers for affected parties.

He was also disappointed that messages to the Government and Invercargill-based Minister for the Environment Penny Simmonds had not been responded to.

“Nothing. Just been forgotten about.”

In response to questions from Local Democracy Reporting, Emergency Management Southland controller Lucy Hicks said residents were required to evacuate and could be removed legally under a state of emergency.

Residents were encouraged to make sure their contents were covered by insurance while living away from home.

But cover would be provided by both Fulton Hogan and Emergency Management Southland should anything unexpected happen while clearing the dump site, Hicks said.

“We are working directly with the owner of the bee-keeping business to find a solution that prioritises their family's safety while also allowing them to manage their business.”

Emergency Coordination Centre was working to support permanent residents and cater to individual needs, she said.

Minister Simmonds’ office was contacted for comment but could not respond by deadline.

The removal of waste from the dump site follows a successful bid by Environment Southland and Southland District Council which saw $1.35 million granted by the Government.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air

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