22 Jun 2015

Coming to grips with flood devastation

11:19 pm on 22 June 2015

Whanganui locals are coming to grips with the devastation caused by the city's biggest ever floods.

Flooding seen from Wairere Road on Bastia Hill in Wanganui on Sunday morning.

Flooding seen from Wairere Road on Bastia Hill in Wanganui on Sunday morning. Photo: Adam Sinclair

People are slowly being let back into their homes as the floodwaters recede and roads reopen.

But some said the mess left behind would take years to clean up.

Hone Tamehima said seeing a river run through the meeting room at the Putiki Marae was an emotional experience.

The heavy rain stopped two days ago but the water was still shin deep, and the problems it caused were not going anywhere.

Mr Tamehima said repairing sacred Maori art would not come cheap when the taonga was priceless.

"Insurance-wise, we couldn't even get an evaluation on the carvings, with [them] being original. No insurance company wanted to go near it."

The carvings were about 200 years old.

Waka shifted by the storm outside Pūtiki Marae.

Waka shifted by the storm outside Pūtiki Marae. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

Over the bridge in Whanganui East were some of the worst hit properties in the region.

The playing fields of Kowhai Park were now a temporary pond of brown, muddy water.

Graham Broughton, a long-time resident, had lived there for almost all of his 77 years.

That meant he was there for the major floods in 2004 and even 1940 - but these were the worst he had seen.

"My dad had a mate who had a dinghy, and I - apparently, I was too young to remember - but I was in the dinghy floating out through the trees in Kowhai Park.

"That was in the 1940 flood, and that was a biggie. So how everything is going to get back to normal...It's going to take a long time."

Roger Whiting has lived in Whanganui East for more than 30 years.

He shifted from Auckland in 1981 to raise his family down here - and said seeing his home in the state it was in now was tough.

Mr Whiting agreed recovery would be a long road.

"It's very hard to take it all in. It's quite extensive, the problem, obviously. It's very much a handling the shock situation.

"It's an individual thing, depending on your own circumstances."

Whanganui mayor Annette Main said the real clean up had not even started, because they were not sure if it was safe to yet.

But for many locals, the problems caused by the flood would stick around far longer than the mud.

An image of Whanganui taken by a resident.

An image of Whanganui taken by a resident. Photo: Diana Fowler

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