24 Feb 2018

Takaka resident says Gita should be a wake up call

8:03 am on 24 February 2018

A Takaka Hill resident says the storm that brought down slips and completely blocked the road should be a wake up call for many.

Flooding in the Takaka valley.

Flooding in the Takaka valley. Photo: RNZ / Logan Church

The Transport Agency said the ex-tropical Cyclone Gita storm brought down at least 16 slips, cutting road access to Golden Bay, when it struck the region late on Tuesday night.

Steffi Rethwisch said the speed at which supplies vanished in Takaka shows a need for better preparation in an emergency. She made it into Takaka to stock up on supplies but was too late even by Wednesday, but was shocked at the level of damage to the road.

"Driving into Golden Bay - when go along the road from the bottom of the hill, basically the top layer of the tarmac has been peeled off by the water."

Once people knew they might be stuck they cleaned out stores of bread, milk, potatoes and toilet paper, she said.

"It highlights very much how much we are all dependent on transport. I mean, this is just a single road that's been blocked.

"I think it's a big wake up call and it wouldn't be the last time it's going to happen."

Steffi Rethwisch

Steffi Rethwisch Photo: RNZ/Tracy Neal

Ms Rethwisch said families living on the hill have adapted quickly. Children unable to get to school in Riwaka and Motueka are finding a silver lining to being stranded at home.

She home-schools her daughter but says other children are enjoying some un-scheduled play time, with the play-dates being arranged on the hill.

"Basically we're just letting the kids hang out that basically never have time because they're so fully booked into the school life normally, and we never get to see them. So it's great."

Supplies have since begun arriving by barge at Golden Bay's Port Tarakohe.

The state of emergency imposed on the region after the storm earlier this week was lifted at midday on Friday, but a notice of transition remained in place for the Tasman district only.

The Nelson-Tasman civil defence group controller, Roger Ball, said the notice gave the group authority to ensure the recovery efforts continued in a managed way.

Stranded residents and tourists have been finding a way out by air or sea.

Lisa Sheppard of Golden Bay Air said on Friday they had ferried 250 people out of Takaka since Wednesday, and 100 more are on a wait list.

She said hundreds had queued at the Takaka air field in the days immediately after the road closure, but most were getting to where they needed to be.

Abel Tasman tourism operator Darryl Wilson said a system was evolving with coachlines in Golden Bay to take people over to Totaranui in the Abel Tasman National Park, where they could connect with scheduled boat services to Kaiteriteri.

Mr Ball said six response teams are continuing welfare assessments today in the Motueka, Riwaka and Brooklyn Valley areas. Under the notice of transition, the fuel conservation plan in Golden Bay remained in place, with a $30 fuel limit per vehicle per day.

Steffi Rethwisch and her daughter

Steffi Rethwisch and her daughter Photo: RNZ/Tracy Neal

He said contractors will be working to provide essential access and will not be able to assist private residents.

"Residents are asked to please source their own contractors if they need work undertaken on their properties."

Mr Ball said due to a significant amount of debris in and around Tasman Bay (including large logs and some shipping containers), it was recommended that boaties do not head into Tasman Bay.

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