26 Feb 2018

Gita cleanup: 'You don't wait for outside help'

5:51 pm on 26 February 2018

The Marahau community has banded together to help each other in the wake of last week's storm which destroyed homes in the area, the manager of a local cafe says.

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The locals were used to banding together with their own diggers and road-scrapers when events such as this occurred, Lisa said. Photo: Supplied / Kyle Mulinder

Marahau is the southern gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park, and was hit hard by rain and slips when former-cyclone Gita swept through the Tasman district last Tuesday.

The Park Cafe manager Lisa said it was the third natural disaster she had experienced in Marahau, including a landslide in 2013 which killed a 63-year-old woman when the slip struck her house.

Many were still struggling though life has returned to normal for many, she said.

"People are sitting on the beach, over the last few days in Kaiteriteri, drinking beers, enjoying the sun and the people who need to clean up their houses are cleaning up their houses.

"People just carry on because there's nothing you can actually do about it except watch the water come into your house, watch it subside and clean up what you can clean up," she said.

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One of the huge landslides that hit Marahau after ex-cyclone Gita swept through the region. Photo: Supplied / Kyle Mulinder

Lisa said Marahau was a place where people were used to sorting out their own problems.

"It was the locals that banded together with their diggers and their road-scrapers. Everyone sorts their own problems out. That's what we do when something like that happens.

"There's nothing you can do - nothing, except ride it out."

Nelson-Tasman Emergency Management said last week the priority was clearing public roads and accessways and private land owners would need to organise contractors to help clear properties.

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Marahau was hit hard by rain and slips when ex-cyclone Gita swept through the Tasman district. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Lisa was upset recalling the events of last week, when she was unable to reach her children.

"My kids live with their father and we were all separated. My son was in Motueka and my daughter was with her dad. And my little girl - she walked in chest-high water to get to safer ground that day. She's only nine and she was amazing.

"I managed to get her in my arms two days later when I managed to bike through the silt and the water to get to her."

A Nelson-Tasman Civil Defence spokesman said the priority at the time for welfare teams was to ensure people in Marahau were safe, but they recognised that need in the community would be ongoing.

Chris Choat said Red Cross and urban search and rescue teams were there soon after the flood, food and water was sent in immediately afterwards, and welfare teams were still coming to grips with what had to be done.

"The difficulty is the large amount of private property damage. We're putting those affected in touch with appropriate services, like insurers, EQC and contractors."

Lisa said it was traumatic for many in Marahau, and each was dealing with it differently.

"It happens all around the world all the time, but when it happens to you ... it's just different. But as I said, everyone just kind of rallies together and stuff gets done and you don't wait for outside help."

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Nelson-Tasman Emergency Management said last week the priority was clearing public roads and accessways. Photo: Supplied / Kyle Mulinder

Floods were part of living in Marahau, Lisa said.

"We choose to live here - we choose to live next to these streams and these rivers - these little tiny streams that turned into monsters. It was a flash flood and it was a beauty. I've never seen anything like it my life."

The Riwaka-Sandy Bay Road, which is the main road into Marahau, remained closed, but access was possible via Kaiteriteri, Mr Choat said.

Lisa said the cafe and other tourist businesses, like the kayak and boat charter companies in the Abel Tasman National Park, were back up and running.

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