Cyclone Gabrielle: Kaipara District Council tallies the damage in storm’s wake

Vehicles crossing the Northern Wairoa River at Dargaville after Cyclone Gabrielle hit. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Twenty Kaipara properties have been red-stickered as the district begins to count the cost of Cyclone Gabrielle’s fury.

Kaipara mayor Craig Jepson said most of the 20 red-stickered properties were in Dargaville.

He said this was an early estimate as building inspectors worked through assessing Cyclone Gabrielle’s impacts.

Kaipara authorities on Thursday were working to get a better picture of how badly hit still-inaccessible rural and remote areas around the district are.


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Jepson said a more thorough picture of these areas was needed.

A Defence Force Unimog delivered food and fresh water to Pouto and Kaihu as the communities cut off by flooding ran out of supplies.

Jepson said the Unimog was heading to Pouto on Thursday morning to provide the much-needed supplies.

The tiny isolated community is at the tip of Pouto Peninsula, about an hour’s drive south of the town.


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Getting pumps to those who were flooded was among the goals of Thursday’s recovery work, Jepson said.

He said the community and emergency response teams had been doing a great job of supporting each other around Dargaville and across Kaipara in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle hitting.

“The community has been marvellous.”

Dargaville was lucky to avoid further flooding overnight after experiencing the biggest floodwater peak since 1958 when records began. Floodwaters started heading from Hikurangi Swamp and beyond the Northern Wairoa River and towards the town, en route to the Kaipara Harbour.

The floodwaters arrived 36 hours after Cyclone Gabrielle flooding hit Hikurangi Swamp and beyond. The peak arrived around Dargaville overnight but outside feared peak high tide times.

Kaipara Harbour is one of the world’s biggest harbours, covering 950sq km at high tide and draining 6500sq km of land.

Jepson was in Dargaville on Thursday and visited the town’s Civil Defence evacuation centre.

He had headed to Dargaville after spending a couple of hours on a digger clearing storm debris from the Mangawhai foreshore.

Dargaville-based Cr Gordon Lambeth, who is Kaipara District Council (KDC’s) representative on the Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management Group and chairs the local Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) advisory group, said there had been three stages to Cyclone Gabrielle impacts hitting the town and surrounds.

The first had been the Awakino River on Dargaville’s eastern outskirts bursting its banks from the sheer volume of rainfall in its Tangowahine catchment and cutting off State Highway 14.


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Lambeth said he had never seen that happen in his 60 years in the area.

The second was on Tuesday afternoon when Niwa had indicated a storm surge was at risk of breaching the Ruawai stopbanks and a potential major evacuation of the area about 30 kilometres south of Dargaville was prepared.

The third was then the huge volume of extra floodwater from Hikurangi Swamp and beyond in Kaipara Harbour’s north-east catchment hills beginnings hitting Northern Wairoa which flows past the town of 5000 people.

He said flooding impacts from the Awakino River bursting its bank had not resulted in Dargaville’s council sewage treatment plant getting into trouble. There had been no sewage contamination in floodwaters.

Jepson said the council’s Mangawhai sewage treatment plant had not had problems, despite the huge quantity of extra stormwater.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air


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