Gisborne residents race to barricade houses with sandbags before dark

7:54 pm on 4 November 2021

Gisborne residents are coming together to put safety precautions in place as rain continues to soak the already flooded region.

Sandbagged house at Sponge Bay, Gisborne

Sandbagged house in Sponge Bay, Gisborne. Photo: LDR / Alice Angeloni

A truck and trailer with six people perched on the back slowly rolls through floodwaters in Gisborne.

Residents of Sponge Bay, one of the areas worst affected by 24 hours of torrential rain, jump off the back into knee-high water.

They unload sandbags, tucking them against garage doors, and other openings, to barricade their homes against the water.

It was a race against dark, and the high tide looming at 6pm that local authorities warned could make the already hectic floodwaters worse.

A local state of emergency was declared in Tairāwhiti at 2pm today after some areas received more than 200mm of rain.

Police had a checkpoint running at the corner of Sponge Bay Rd and Hamilton Dr at about 5pm.

A search and rescue squad including three IRBs and 15 volunteers were pulling their boats into the water about 4.30pm.

Gisborne Search and Rescue coordinator Justin Martin said they had come to offer assistance to people who might need help evacuating.

"The water is still rising, high tide is still yet to approach at about 6pm so that's a big concern.

"We've got stormwater still actually coming out of the drains instead of going down, so that's a lot of pressure on the system."

They also had a couple of crews on stand-by north of Gisborne at Uawa Tolaga Bay.

"We are just obviously concentrating here at the moment because it is quite bad - in a way which I haven't seen before."

They wanted to do what they could before it got dark, he said.

Teenagers in wetsuits were running amok in the water, some residents scorned "rubberneckers" who were rolling through for a look in, while others just marvelled at the scene unfolding from the safety of their garage.

Sponge Bay flooding, Gisborne

Sponge Bay flooding, Gisborne Photo: LDR / Alice Angeloni

Lisa Walker-Daniels was out on the street in Sponge Bay, wading through the floodwater, and pointed to her house across the other side of deep water.

"My house there, we're just a bit under water and so we called the council, we called everyone - no one came to help us, so we got out and did it ourselves.

"When I got home there was no water, I could drive up my driveway and now my car has got water around the sides."

Another load of sandbags had just arrived. Water splashed around her knees as she waded away.

Hamilton Dr resident Craig Menzies had sandbagged the entrance to his house.

"We've just been going out and helping everyone out really, making sure everyone is looked after."

Most of his neighbours were sorted out with sandbags too, he said.

"We'll just see what happens. Hopefully it calms down."

Sue Te Puni was watching the rain come down and the water rise up from the safety of her garage.

"We've never had anything like this before. We've lived here for seven years.

"I've seen a bit of flooding down where the creek is, but this is ridiculous."

The park where she usually threw a ball for her dog now looked like a river, she said.

"This is crazy."

Gisborne resident Cherie Scott in Edelsten Place, Tamarau.

Gisborne resident Cherie Scott in the flooded Edelsten Place, Tamarau. Photo: Paul Rickard / The Gisborne Herald / LDR

Three welfare centres have been established at Wainui School Hall, the Salvation Army and the House of Breakthrough, with Te Poho o Rawiri Marae on standby.

Portaloos had been delivered to Sponge Bay, many roads were closed and the power was being shut off.

Portaloos have been delivered to Sponge Bay, one of the worst affected areas where many roads are now closed and the power is being shut off.

Tairāwhiti Civil Defence group controller Dave Wilson urged people to stay home.

"There is a problem with rubberneckers, particularly around Sponge Bay and we really ask that everyone restrict their travel," Wilson said.

"Treat all surface water as contaminated."

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