Kerikeri residents Mita Harris and Ari Burt transfer people from flood-hit areas to hospital.
A heavily pregnant woman stuck in floodwaters was taken to hospital by a Good Samaritan who came to her aid in a Unimog.
As Cyclone Gabrielle raged over Northland on Monday night, Kerikeri man Mita Harris (Ngāpuhi) fielded a call to help a woman in labour get to Bay of Islands hospital from south of Kawakawa.
Harris headed out straight away to collect a community midwife in Kawakawa, and then picked the woman and her whānau.
“It was dark and the flood was quite high, well above the lights. But we made it in and out quick enough.”
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It took Harris just half an hour to take the woman to the hospital, where she later gave birth.
“She looked calm, and climbed up [to the truck] herself.”
Harris rescued people from flood-hit areas in his Unimogs for three or four years, but this was the first time he had taken a pregnant woman to hospital through rising waters.
Harris, who grew up in Hokianga learning the potential danger of flooding as a child, said Google Earth and his knowledge of the area’s hydrology helps him drive efficiently through floodwaters.
“I have been brought up with flooding. I have got a bit of an idea to watch hydrology and where the water hits.
“What helps us is Google Earth. You can see where the flood is. You need to keep to the left or the right in particular areas.”
He said the multi-purpose vehicles could be relied on to help him transfer people, supplies and essential goods to and from flooded areas.
“It’s a koha for Taitokerau under tūmanako and whakapono.”
In 2016, two ex-army Unimogs were given to Harris in koha.
The vehicles handle rough terrain and deep water well. If the currents are not very strong, they can be driven through water almost 2m deep.
Bay of Islands Hospital’s associate clinical midwifery manager Rosie Sharman said the woman and her baby were in stable condition.
”The Unimog and a community midwife collected a pregnant and well māmā from her home on Monday night and took her to Bay of Islands Hospital, when her whānau could not access the hospital due to flooding.”
Harris, along with fellow driver Ari Burt and daughter Hana Harris, have transferred five patients to hospitals in the past three days.
Harris, who works with Biosecurity New Zealand, and a handful of other people pay for the vehicles’ fuel and maintenance – with some assistance from the Department of Internal Affairs and Northland Health.
“I have been grateful to help our community, and to have a good employer who lets me do that.”