'Now the family can smile a little'

6:29 am on 10 April 2017

An Edgecumbe resident allowed back to his home to collect belongings says his family has been given a chance to 'smile a little'.

Brenda Kora and Chris OBryne

Brenda Kora and Chris OBryne packed their boot full of the essentials in the 15 minutes they were allowed back into their home. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

Most of the 1600 residents remains displaced after the Rangitaiki River stopbank burst damaged 70 percent of the houses in the Bay of Plenty town.

Yesterday around 300 people were able to visit their properties for 15 minutes to get essentials, and dozens will be allowed full access to their homes this morning.

A large line stretched back from Awakeri School as residents queued, some for over an hour, to register to get into their homes.

Many left with smiles on their faces, a welcome change from what had been a grim few days.

Frustration on Saturday had bubbled over at a public meeting as residents complained at lack of access to homes.

But those frustrations were alleviated for some, like Jamie Woods who was able to see her home for the first time since Thursday.

Jamie Woods

Jamie Woods was allowed back into her home for the first time since Thursday. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

"It was quite sad but exciting just going to get all my stuff.

Her home got off lightly with just the lawns left strewn with mud.

"It was actually better than I expected. I thought it was going to be worse. We were bracing ourselves for soggy floors when we went in.

Under escort she had 15 minutes to load up her ute with as much stuff as she could.

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Jamie Woods' cat was found waiting for her in her house. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

"I just ran in and found my cats were sitting there ... my bird was still hanging. My guinea pigs have been picked up by the SPCA, though.

"I made sure the kids have their lego and their bikes and just baskets of clothes. Because I'm not the type of person to fold my washing so it was just sitting there all ready to go. It's harder on the kids, they just want all their stuff back. We've just had to go out and buy things not knowing how long we'll be out for.

"I'm a lot happier now, knowing I've got my things now."

'It was a bit of a shock when we came over the bridge and saw it.'

Chris O'Bryne and partner Brenda Kora had just moved into their place the week before the floods.

"It was a bit of a shock when we came over the bridge and saw it. It's awful for people who have been there for years. We've only just gotten involved with the community a week ago and it's pretty devastating," Ms Kora said.

They are yet to unpack their moving boxes and fortunately the floodwaters didn't make it to their new home.

"It's good in a way for us but really sad for other poeple. A lot of family members are in the thick of it," Mr O'Bryne said.

"Unfortunately Edgecumbe is a bomb at the moment, I just respect what [the volunteers] are doing."

Their boot was packed full of the essentials - clothing, food, chargers and Brenda's son's teddybear.

"It was good to get in, now the family can smile a little, they've got their belongings," Mr O'Bryne said.

"We'll be right there with the rest of the community helping cleaning up, so we'll get the town back together.

Those with damaged houses, or houses it was deemed too dangerous to go back into, were turned away.

Ricky Pratt was one of those left disappointed.

"I came here just to get into my house to get my kids some toys and my mrs some clothes. My house is dry, but they say it's a blue zone so I can't get in there at all until someone says that I can.

"You keep trying to get through the barrier, push through where the cops are, but you just get turned around."

It is still not clear when people will be allowed full access to their homes, but the mayor said he hopes within 10 days.

From 8am today the cordon is being reduced allowing people back to 45 homes, east of the river, around Hydro Road.

Civil Defence hoped to make other areas available in the next day or so.

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