Cyclone Hale: State of emergency declared for Tairāwhiti

A 1m dropout at Mata Road, Tokomaru Bay, at the 17.5km mark.

A 1m dropout at Mata Road, Tokomaru Bay, at the 17.5km mark.
Photo: Gisborne District Council

An estimated 30 whānau from the Uawa, or Tolaga Bay area have spent the night away from home, staying with relatives on higher ground as Cyclone Hale set floodwaters lapping at their doors.

The Hikuwai River reached 13.4 metres about 3am on Wednesday morning.

Tairāwhiti Civil Defence Emergency Management declared a state of local emergency at 10pm on Tuesday.

Uawa Civil Defence group member Shanan Gray said the swollen waterways had caused surface flooding across roads and right up to people’s sections.

Gray said about 30 households in the Tolaga Bay area left their homes for the night, heading to higher ground.

“Some whānau have chosen to evacuate, so that just shows that some people know that the water can definitely go into their houses which we are well aware that some houses have been affected by this.”

One motorist has had to be rescued overnight, he said.

“This person didn’t get the memo that the roads were closed and we only had to pull one person out of the Rototahi Road and they are safe and they chose just to stay put, just out by Rototahi because their car was a little bit damaged from the water.”

State Highway 35 is closed from Ōkitū to Waipiro Bay.

The Waiotu Stream last night breached its bank and flooded the highway at Tokomaru Bay.

Tairāwhiti Civil Defence controller Nedine Thatcher Swann said everyone should stay off the roads and take this weather event seriously.

“We want to ensure our community is aware we have more rain to come and rivers are still rising,” she said in a statement issued at 11pm on Tuesday.

“We have surface flooding across the region and ask everyone to please respect any road barriers that are up.”

Around 20 local roads are closed in the Tairāwhiti region and contractors would start work to restore access first thing in the morning.

The sewer network is overwhelmed and emergency valves are open in several locations into the city’s rivers to avoid overflows on private property, Thatcher Swann said.

About 387 Matawai residents were without power overnight as it was too dangerous for crews to check on site, she said.

Meanwhile, in Northland, officials are warning the recovery from Cyclone Hale could take weeks.

Although the weather moved south towards Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay yesterday evening, the Northland Regional Council said river levels would take time to recede.

The ground remains saturated, creating a risk of slips and falling trees.

The council advised travellers, especially in the Whangārei area, to take extreme caution and defer any journeys that were not essential, especially while it was still dark.

Motorists should drive with caution, as flooded roads may have damage or debris under the water, it said.

MetService heavy rain warnings for Coromandel Peninsula, Gisborne are no longer in force, but a heavy rain warning remains in place for Hawke’s Bay until 10am on Wednesday.

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