• Jenny Shipley
Prime Minister

Prime Minister Jenny Shipley announced today that the Government has agreed to provide emergency labour assistance for West Coast local authorities affected by the unusual flooding that occurred this week.

Mrs Shipley said the Government would make available Task Force Green assistance through the New Zealand Employment Service to help locals rehabilitate and clean up the region over the next seven weeks.

"While damage to the region as a whole was significant, there were no lives lost and stock losses were small thanks to early warnings that allowed stock to be shifted from low lying areas."

"I am anxious to see that the people of the West Coast are supported at this difficult time. By providing assistance quickly, it is hoped that production losses over the summer will be minimised," Mrs Shipley said.

The programme will be administered jointly by the West Coast Regional Council and the Grey District Council.

Mrs Shipley said impact of the floods on the community was substantially reduced by the protection provided by the floodwall at Greymouth.

Greymouth experienced its highest flood levels on record on Wednesday.

"The floodwall was an excellent example of how good planning can reduce disasters and has paid for itself many times over."

Erected at a cost of $6 million after the devastating floods in September 1988, the wall has since protected the township from similar damage on two occasions of extremely high flooding. Insurance claims alone were $28 million in 1988. This time insurance assessors estimate the damage in and around Greymouth will be only about half a million dollars.

Meanwhile, officials said it is expected to be some days before local authorities will have assessed the full extent of rural damage.

The storm during the week was unusually severe even by West Coast standards. The area to the immediate north of Greymouth around Coal Creek - Kaiata was substantially under water, with about a dozen houses having to be evacuated. Elsewhere, initial assessments indicate that between 40 and 50 farm properties have damage of significant proportions.