Cyclone Gabrielle: NZ rebuilding costs were comparable to those of the Christchurch earthquake

Survivors of Cyclone Gabrielle in New Zealand clear the road of mud

According to New Zealand, the cost of rebuilding after Cyclone Gabrielle will be in the billions, matching the cost of the Christchurch earthquake 12 years ago.

In the middle of February, Gabrielle caused significant flooding on the North Island, causing damage to the roads and bridges.

At least 11 deaths have been reported thus far, and thousands more remain unreachable.

According to Finance Minister Grant Robertson, it will be the most expensive weather event of the century and cost $1 billion.

The government would first take care of survivors' most pressing needs, including food, shelter, electricity, and communications, according to Mr. Robertson's comments to TVNZ over the weekend.

In the wake of the disaster, Mr. Robertson said, "We have a long road ahead of us to rebuild, but we have the resources to do it, and we have the will to do it.".

According to the minister in charge of rebuilding efforts, farmers lost entire harvests and herds to the floods, and authorities are still figuring out how much of it will be covered by insurance.

The NZ$250 million (£129.6 million) in additional funding for road repairs and the NZ$50 million (£25.9 million) support package for businesses were both announced by Prime Minister Chris Hipkins on Monday.

In order to recover from the devastating earthquake in the South Island of New Zealand in 2011 that destroyed much of the city center of Christchurch and left thousands of people homeless, the country spent NZ$13 billion ($8 point 1 billion; £6 point 7 billion).

The extent of the damage caused by Gabrielle, according to Mr. Robertson, was caused by New Zealand's failure to build climate-resilient infrastructure, and he added that the current approach to adaptation "has not been sufficiently robust.".

He continued, "Not even tens of billions more in infrastructure spending over the next five years can close the gaps.". "We won't be able to make up for it in the long run," he said of the deficit's size.

A car is seen stuck in the sand in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle in the Esk Valley near Napier on 18 February, 2023.
A car that is stranded in the severely damaged Esk Valley near Napier.

Additionally, Mr. Hipkins announced that the government would declare a seven-day national emergency in response to Gabrielle. Northland, Auckland, Tairwhiti, the Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Hawke's Bay, and Tararua are all affected.

Only three times in its history has New Zealand declared a national emergency to hasten rescue and relief efforts; the most recent was in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake.

More than 6,500 people, according to Mr. Hipkins, were unreachable following the cyclone, but he added that authorities knew that 4,200 of them were safe.

According to the PM, approximately 15,000 people in the North Island still lack electricity. These are concentrated in Napier and the nearby areas to the tune of 70%.

A few weeks after flooding caused by heavy rains in Auckland, the North Island's capital, Gabrielle struck. Photos of the city's airport being shut down by the downpour went viral on social media.

Many of the roads that Gabrielle damaged remain closed. According to Reuters, milk cannot be collected by tanker trucks, some logging has been suspended, and meat processing has been scaled back.

The cyclone also interfered with apple and pear picking in farms, whose annual output is worth NZ$1 billion. Still inaccessible are many of these areas.

Farm losses could raise food costs, adding pressure to inflation, which is already running at a level of 7 points 2 percent that is almost three decades high.

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