Northland navigating billion-dollar Cyclone Gabrielle hit

Alternate routes into Northland were under pressure during Cyclone Gabrielle.

Alternate routes into Northland were under pressure during Cyclone Gabrielle.
Photo: LDR / Supplied

Northland is dealing with a billion-dollar Cyclone Gabrielle hit.

And it will require the biggest recovery the region has ever seen.

The estimated cost comes from the combined impact of half a billion dollars needed to rebuild Northland infrastructure, and roughly the same amount needed for the region’s economy.

In Northland, there has been $50 million worth of Cyclone Gabrielle household insurance claims to date – almost 4000 claims.

Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management Group recovery manager Mark Trudinger said Cyclone Gabrielle was the biggest event in Te Tai Tokerau in a generation.

He said the estimated $1b-dollar hit was only part of it.

Roading was hit the hardest as $250m of damage occurred to local district roads and more than $170m to state highways.

Councils have also worked on repairing three waters infrastructure, that includes for wastewater and storm water in Dargaville and Whangārei. Also on the to-do list are repairs to council parks and walkways, particularly along the coast.

More than 1000 slips from 1500 have been repaired across Northland.

Cyclone Gabrielle exacerbated slips on State Highway 1 over the Brynderwyns, resulting in road closure for repairs.

NZTA crew make repairs to SH1 over the Brynderwyn Hills after Cyclone Gabrielle.
Photo: NZTA / Waka Kotahi

Trudinger said getting cyclone-damaged infrastructure back on track was about rebuilding with better extreme weather resilience.

Meanwhile, the region’s economy suffered greatly. State Highway 1 over the Brynderwyns was shut whilst repairs were made to land slippage compounded by Cyclone Gabrielle.

Northland’s economy lost $1m a day for every day SH1 over the Brynderwyns was shut.

Road closures aside, 70 per cent of the region’s kumara crop was impacted. More than 150 Northland dairy farmers had to dump milk.

Northern Wairoa Vegetable Growers Association president Doug Nilsson said kumara for New Zealanders to eat had been in short supply throughout last year and therefore, high-priced as a result of Cyclone Gabrielle.

Kaipara's Kaihu River, north of Dargaville, flooded during Cyclone Gabrielle.

Kaipara’s Kaihu River, north of Dargaville, during Cyclone Gabrielle.
Photo: Kaipara District Council / Supplied

The 2023 crop was just weeks away from its single annual harvest when Cyclone Gabrielle arrived. Nilsson lost 99 per cent of this crop.

“We only got about 10 tonnes of kumara, compared with our usual about 1500 tonnes,” he said.

Cyclone Gabrielle also caused Nilsson to lose his crop of kumara growing as the seed foundation for this coming year too.

“It’s taken about 11 months for our insurance claim to be processed, but I think we’re nearly there.”

He said things were shaping up pretty well for 2024′s coming 10-week mid-February to April kumara harvest.

“As long as there’s not another cyclone coming through.”

Trudinger said Northland’s Cyclone recovery was progressing reasonably well.

He said, as in the middle of the Cyclone Gabrielle response, recovery was being undertaken collectively.

He said much of it was happening at grassroots level, out in the communities that had so importantly helped in a variety of ways during the cyclone.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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