Some Edgecumbe residents have been allowed back into their flood-hit town today but many have been devastated by the state of their homes.
The Bay of Plenty town was inundated by a wall of water after a stopbank on the Rangitāiki River burst last week, flooding the town and forcing its 1600 residents to flee.
About 170 people returned home today but some houses are seriously damaged or even uninhabitable.
One resident, Daniel Musgrave, found a tree had fallen onto a power line, which damaged his power box, charring the walls of his house.
Mr Musgrave said he was shocked by what he found.
"We were excited as to come home and then it's like as soon as you walk in the door, someone grabs the rug and pulls it out from underneath you. It's been a bit hellish actually.
"But at least we've got somewhere to stay - a lot of people are a lot worse off," he said.
Another resident, Pat Cook, said she was unhappy with how the Whakatāne District Council had managed the evacuation process.
She thought she would be allowed to return home today, but was then told she couldn't.
"It's really awful and I think the mayor ought to get off his ass, come down here, and co-ordinate things properly," she said.
However, Whakatāne Mayor Tony Bonne said the community seemed in good spirits despite the huge clean-up that lay ahead.
"It's amazing the amount of support we've had from throughout the country, from Civil Defence. We've had people from many councils, from far North to the South Island up here helping us.
"It's a really good feeling," he said.
Volunteers would start helping with the clean-up tomorrow, he said.
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council is commissioning an independent review of the circumstances that led to the flooding at Edgecumbe.