Mataura pulls together for big clean up after flooding - 'It's just what you do'

5:02 pm on 7 February 2020

The mop-up is underway for residents in flood-hit Mataura, but it could be a while before some people can return to their homes.

Alison Bishop's house after the flooding.

Alison Bishop's house after the flooding. Photo: RNZ / Sarah Robson

About 30 properties in the Southland town were flooded, Civil Defence said.

When Alison Bishop was finally allowed back into Mataura last night, she found her house on Bristol Street surrounded by water - she couldn't even get inside.

But by first thing this morning, the floodwaters had receeded and the clean-up could begin.

"We cleared the garage out so we can put all our furniture out there to dry. [Our friends] are just away getting pallets so we can sit them up off the ground so the air can get under them," Bishop said.

"Once we get all the furniture out, then we'll start ripping carpets and shifting other stuff."

The carpet was sodden and squelched with every step.

There was a fine layer of silt covering the floor in the kitchen and the bathroom - and the bottom of the shower was brown.

The skirting boards around the house were starting to swell and the air smelt damp.

But Bishop said she and her husband felt lucky - there were plenty of people keen to help out with the clean-up.

Discarded items following the flooding in Mataura.

Discarded items following the flooding in Mataura. Photo: RNZ / Sarah Robson

"It's amazing, I've got a friend who's cooking food to bring down to us, I've got people who have offered to do laundry, it's just unbelievable."

Four local firemen and a couple of neighbours were needed to shift Bishop's pride and joy - her customised storage unit for her crafting supplies.

Lynley Pope, who lives around the corner on Oakland Street, said she was more than happy to lend a hand.

"These are good people, so we come round and give anybody a hand, it's just what you do."

By lunchtime, the house was empty - the carpet and lino had been ripped out and anything that couldn't be salvaged was in a heap outside.

A lounge suite, a mattress and the rest of the Bishops' furniture was on the driveway drying out.

Next door, Shirley Wilkins had managed to get everything out of her house too.

But she was dreading the pile of washing she has to do - there were four big rubbish bags and two baskets filled with dirty clothes, sheets and other linen.

It would be a while before Wilkins and her family could live in the house again.

Once the back lawn dried out, she said they would pitch their six-person tent.

"It's camping, it's summer, you camp in summer," she laughed.

Mataura's community centre.

Mataura's community centre. Photo: RNZ / Sarah Robson

Meanwhile, Mataura's community centre has been turned into an emergency operations base.

Team leader Elaine Moriarty said by lunchtime today they'd had 50 people come in for help with anything from building assessments to essential supplies like drinking water and pet food.

"We have blankets, pillows, toilet paper, things like that, just the essentials people need for when they start getting back into their home, or their home is wet and their matresses or the bedding is wet."

Moriarty expected it would get busier over the next few days as people return home.

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