Cyclone Gabrielle: Rural Northland still under water, days after storm

Areas of rural Northland are still struggling with flooding, power outages and slips days after Cyclone Gabrielle smashed the area.

The storm tore through Northland on Sunday and Monday, before going on to cause catastrophic damage in Auckland, Coromandel, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay.

Five people have since been confirmed dead – one in Auckland and four on the East Coast.

“Hikurangi is 100% still flooded,” Whangārei mayor Vince Cocurullo​ said on Thursday.

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“The waters are receding and farmers are only now realising the [extent of the] damage.”

Cocurullo said Whangārei District Council’s main priority was clearing blockages from Northland’s main state highways.

“These are serious slips. It may be several months before the slips in Brynderwyn are cleared,” he said.

Officials had been working hard to get essential services back up and running, he said.

At 5pm on Wednesday, Vince Cocurullo flew over Hikurangi to view the extensive flooding.

Vince Cocurullo/Supplied

At 5pm on Wednesday, Vince Cocurullo flew over Hikurangi to view the extensive flooding.

“Phone networks have been down. Power has been down, but over the last three days NorthPower has reduced their outages from around 30,000 people without power to 10,000,” he said.

Cocurullo was quick to say that Northland residents were resilient and had been getting stuck in to “help each other”.

Dargaville electrician Philip Doouss​ is one of those people.

Despite his office being “completely under” water, he and his team have been working around the clock to connect farms in Ruawai to power generators.

Utes float in a ditch in Whakapara.

Jaymin McGuire/Supplied

Utes float in a ditch in Whakapara.

“Everyone has been very grateful,” he said.

Doouss didn’t know how much water damage his building sustained because the only road in was flooded.

Several evacuation centres in Dargaville were opened up on Tuesday morning for those with low-lying homes alongside the Wairoa River.

Kaipara district mayor Craig Jepson​ said Dargaville had come out of the “worst of it” and most evacuees had since returned to their homes.

Riverside Drive in Whangārei flooded during Cyclone Gabrielle.

Jaymin McGuire/Supplied

Riverside Drive in Whangārei flooded during Cyclone Gabrielle.

His attention had also turned to those in rural areas.

“We need to assess how many people need assistance. We’ve got kumara crops, maize crops, farmers pouring milk down the drain.

“Rural areas that have really been hit the worst: Pouto Point and Kaihu Valley. We’re getting food, water and fuel supplies there today,” he said.

Jepson was confident the community would band together.

“We’ve got pretty resistant people. They lean on each other,” he said.

Cocurullo said anyone in need of help should contact their district council or police.

“If you need help, ring 09 430 4200 or if there is an emergency dial 111.

“There’s a lot of people who are new to Whangārei and have never been through a storm like this. They need to know they are not alone,” he said.

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