Yesterday's flood-swollen rivers in Tokomaru Bay, north of Gisborne, triggered memories of the destruction caused by Cyclone Bola in 1988, East Coast MP Kiri Allan says.
Allan told a meeting of about 50 people in Tokomaru Bay this morning the damage caused by heavy rain and floods yesterday was worse than she had expected.
"There's a lot of work that needs to be done up there, and particularly feeling for the kids at the kura, their teachers, that's going to be a long period - you're all at the forefront of our mind," Allan said.
"I've spoken with a number of folks who remember it's kind of like the rivers were getting up to Bola levels... that would've caused some degree of anxiety."
Tokomaru's community of about 500 people was one of the worst hit by yesterday's flooding.
Gisborne District Council said four families were forced to evacuate their flooded homes.
Lillian Te Hau-Ward, who led today's meeting to coordinate cleanup efforts, said crews were clearing flood damage at beaches and at Mangahauini River.
Tairāwhiti Civil Defence manager Ben Green said the region was under a civil defence emergency.
"By... mid-afternoon, we'll have a very good picture in terms of what we actually have here," Green said.
"What I'd be quite keen with... is getting a sense of any welfare requirements - I'll be connecting with our key agencies and government agencies for that, and we can offer you support."
He said this would include help with shelter, food and critical needs.
Hatea-a-Rangi School in Tokomaru Bay was shut after the flooding, as water streamed through classrooms.
Principal Karla Kohatu said she saw "a lot of our dreams, hopes and aspirations being washed out to the ocean with the torrent."
The council said the full extent of the damage caused by the weekend's heavy rains would only become clear later this week.
Kevin Pewhairangi and his whānau in Tokomaru Bay were cleaning up the family homestead which is more than 100 years old. The garage was destroyed in the flooding and people were working to clean up the silt and mud before more bad weather hit.
The home has been the whānau homestead for more than 60 years and Pewhairangi said everyone was mucking in.
"This is how our hapū works - you just band together. A lot [of people] from town has come back to help. It's just one of those things you have to do."
Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz said the cleanup was well under way.
"We ask for people to keep safe, look out for each other and take care on our roads," Stoltz said.
Up to 200mm of rain was recorded north of Ruatōria yesterday.
State Highway 35 was closed because of severe flooding, but reopened north and south of Tokomaru Bay.
Contractors were working to clear the highway south of Lottin Point Road, which was reopened to one lane.
Several rural roads were closed or accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles only, and slips and washouts continued to be reported.
More rain was forecast south of Gisborne from 6pm tonight to 10am tomorrow. Up to 110mm of rain was expected to accumulate south of Muriwai and in the hills of Wairoa District.
MetService said the weather should improve in the Auckland, Gisborne and East Coast regions.
MetService meteorogist Lewis Ferris said Auckland should have settled weather from this afternoon and over the coming days.
Heavy rain warnings remain for Gisborne south of Muriwai and the Wairoa hills through to tomorrow morning, but it should clear up tomorrow afternoon.