When the rain stops and the sun comes out, it may be tempting for some to forget about the flooding that devastated Auckland just a few days ago.
But volunteers are urging those who weren’t flooded out to remember just how bad things got, when record levels of rain descended on Tāmaki Makaurau last Friday.
People will be rebuilding their lives for months, and they will keep needing help.
Taskforce Kiwi national director Richard Adams said the scale of the damage is unreal.
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“There is still an element of chaos, a week after the event. There is still uncertainty about which areas actually need help.
“It’s hard to appreciate it without seeing it on the ground, it’s whole streets that have been badly impacted.”
Taskforce Kiwi was founded in July 2022. In just six months, they have rallied 170 volunteers nationwide, mostly emergency services and defence veterans, Adams said.
People have come from all over the country to help in Auckland – Adams himself flew up from Christchurch, and another has come in from Australia.
They arrived on Wednesday and got to work on Thursday, splitting off into teams to help assess homes, and clear them out.
Around 20 people a day have been working in the west Auckland suburbs of Ranui, Henderson, Kumeu and Titirangi. Groups of about four have been spending on average half a day each to clear out some 15 homes across Thursday and Friday, Adams said.
They have had funding from the RSA, the Ranfurly Trust and Give For Good, Domino’s Pizza’s registered charity. That’s helped them hire tripper trucks and skips, so they can deal with the waste themselves.
They even had donations from Mitre 10 – shovels, brooms, a pressure sprayer, wheelbarrows – and NZ Safety Blackwoods who have given power tools and PPE for the volunteers.
Adams, who was a volunteer firefighter in Victoria, Australia, said people are worried they’ll get left behind as people move on from the emergency.
“A lot of the conversations we’ve had with homeowners and tenants is that a lot of them do feel forgotten,” he said.
“We’re talking about people whose entire livelihoods are scattered.
“Everything they own, a lifetime of acquired things that are just gone and they don’t feel like they’re supported, which is understandable given the scale of the event.”
He said the response phase of a disaster is often well-resourced and has the public’s undivided attention.
But the recovery phase is less so, even though it’s a longer – and often harder – process.
“People will be going through the recovery process for months, if not years.”
Taskforce volunteers are only in Auckland until the end of the weekend but if they get more funding they hope to return and keep helping.
In the immediate aftermath of the floods, Reina Vaai was desperate to help, but everywhere she turned was sorted for volunteers or donations.
But with her background in law, having practiced in south Auckand and volunteered for community law, Vaai did have something to offer – legal advice, and legally minded friends.
Within a couple of hours on Wednesday night, she had a group of lawyers ready to volunteer at the Pacific Response Hub hosted by South Seas in Ōtara.
Vaai said Pacific communities aren’t always confident when it comes to speaking up for their rights.
“Speaking to people like landlords, and challenging insurance companies, even understanding what’s happening with the courts, all those logistical needs, that’s the reason we set up the legal support services stall,” she said.
A handful of families and individuals have sat down with the team each day to go over their needs. And for some, their problems have nothing to do with the floods at all, Vaai said.
“It was almost an opportunity to sort out other stuff going on their lives… What I realised is that the community has so many different needs, that being lawyers in that space means you have to be agile and adapt to all sorts of queries.
“It’s just important we are there alleviating pressures in other areas of their lives… their issues were amplified by the crisis itself.”
She intends to formalise the volunteer group and add a resource, when places like Community Law are oversubscribed.
Volunteers took hours of out their workdays to help out, and it’s clear their services are needed, she said.
Aotearoa Muslim Youth have been cooking and distributing meals, since the floods began.
They’ve also been rallying members to help clean up in west and south Auckland, and hope to continue in the coming weeks.
Founder Aiyaz Khan said one major job is providing advocacy and translation support to refugee families and migrants who need help to navigate social services.
One family he met was sleeping in their car since the floods, and yesterday they were finally moved into a home in Manurewa, Khan said.
“It’s not over yet. Some people still need assistance.”
There are 50 volunteers ready to work, he said, and he wants to collaborate with other organisations too.
On Sunday, the team will hold a fundraiser in Māngere to raise funds for ongoing volunteering.
“If we will get more resources we will provide more support,” Khan said.