South Auckland tornado: Property developers ask to buy damaged properties 24 hours later

Shirley Corles-Davis is still angry at being asked by a property developer if she wanted to sell her house just 24 hours after it was damaged in the Papatoetoe tornado.

A freak twister ripped through the area on Saturday morning, damaging hundreds of homes in its path and leaving one person, Janesh Prasad, dead.

At least 18 houses in Papatoetoe have since been assessed as uninhabitable, while a further 51 have been significantly damaged and may not be safe to enter.

Papatoetoe’s Hayward Rd is one of the worst affected streets, with roofs torn off, windows blown in and debris strewn everywhere.

Corles-Davis, who has lived in the street for 15 years, said she was asked on Sunday by a property developer if she wanted to sell her home.

“I was so angry. They’ve been in the area trying to get business and it’s not on. This is the worst street in Papatoetoe right now,” she said.

Corles-Davis said she told one of the developers in no uncertain terms what he could do with his offer.

“I was so angry, I swore at him. I told my neighbour if I was a foot taller I would have punched him.”

She said selling her home is the last thing on her mind and she is still trying to get her head around what happened.

Corles-Davis said her outside patio area and deck were smashed to pieces and her roof was damaged in the tornado, while her garden shed disappeared and hasn’t been seen since.

“It was so scary. It was like a bomb had gone off and then there was dead silence,” she said.

But Corles-Davis said while her property was damaged, she’s luckier than some of her neighbours whose homes have been red-stickered and may be condemned.

“At least we’ve got insurance, whereas some of our neighbours don’t, and they will have to move because their houses are uninhabitable.”

The street is still a hive of activity with electrical line workers busy trying to get power back on for the homes that haven’t been red stickered, while insurance assessors are checking which homes are habitable.

The berms outside the houses remain full of debris from Saturday’s twister, with everything from parts of trees, to roof tiles and household items.

Jay Beguely lives in nearby Victoria Rd, which was also affected by the tornado, and has been lending a hand to those affected. He said it’s not uncommon for residents with older homes in the area to receive unsolicited offers from property developers.

“We get it all the time,” Beguely said.

But he said doing it 24 hours after a tornado is callous.

However, Rachel Armstrong, who owns a rental property in Hayward Rd, said some of the affected residents might not have any choice.

“I’ve heard there are a lot of people here who aren’t insured. And if they aren’t covered they might have to sell.”

Armstrong’s property is worse for wear after power lines tore the guttering off the home, while an airborne trampoline smashed into the roof and damaged the tiles.

Peter Cooney is a director of construction and development company Classic Builders.

He said asking someone if they want to sell their home 24 hours after a natural disaster is a “bit harsh”.

“It’s not something we would do. It’s pretty brutal,” Cooney said. “But people will take an opportunity when they see it.”

He said the fact some of the people affected might not be insured and are now facing massive repair bills means selling up and moving might be their best option.

Auckland deputy mayor Bill Cashmore said he couldn’t comment on the actions of the developers in Hayward Rd, but said unfortunately there are always some “ratbags” who try to exploit other people’s misfortunes.

But he said the one thing that has shone through in relation to the Papatoetoe tornado is the community spirit people have shown by helping their neighbours and others.

Meanwhile, mayor Phil Goff announced on Tuesday that the Auckland Council and the Government will provide $200,000 for a Mayoral Relief Fund to support people and families experiencing hardship due to the Papatoetoe tornado.

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