18 Feb 2023

Cyclone Gabrielle: Power and limited water restored to Gisborne but 'still so much to be done' - Mayor

11:54 am on 18 February 2023
Locals cleaning up around Gisborne

Locals cleaning up around Gisborne. Photo: RNZ/Nathan McKinnon

Gisborne is slowly getting back on its feet with power and limited water access restored to the region.

People in the region were told to stop using water immediately on Friday morning after the city's backup water treatment plant failed.

But Civil Defence is still asking the people of Tairāwhiti to conserve as much water as possible.

Gisborne mayor Rehette Stoltz told RNZ's Morning Report on Saturday that people still urgently needed to conserve water.

"There's still weeks and weeks ahead of us where we just need to make sure we use as little as possible water," she said.

Tairāwhiti has been one of the worst-hit regions in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle and Stoltz said they were trying to make sure residents were safe.

"We are moving in the right direction, there's still so much to be done."

Stoltz said the good news was that State Highway 2 north to Ōpōtiki and south to Wairoa had reopened at 7am this morning.

"At least people can get in and out," she said.

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Stoltz's key message to the people of Gisborne was that there was enough fuel and food, and internet access was growing.

After days of fuel rationing 10,000 litres had been delivered to the region.

On internet access, Stoltz said there were a number of hotspots around town, including the Lawson Field Theatre and library.

"It's all go in Gisborne."

On displaced people, she said there were at least 10 whānau without houses in town and in Te Karaka there were still 50 people sleeping in the school.

"We have communities that we need to resettle while their properties are fixed."

Stoltz said they would try and reach the people that were in cut off communities today.

The New Zealand Defence Force told Morning Report it was again delivering supplies to Gisborne today and was also trying to reach more isolated communities by road.

It had more than 700 people providing aid and support to those in regions hit by Cyclone Gabrielle.

Navy vessels had been delivering food and other supplies to communities on the East Coast that were otherwise inaccessible, while helicopters and convoys of Unimogs had also been to hard to reach places.

Lieutenant Colonel Mel Childs said HMNZS Manawanui was in Gisborne and today if the weather permitted, would produce up to 13,000 litres of water per day.

Emergency management was guiding them to other locations that needed help, where they could use small boats to transfer supplies, she said.

When conditions made that impossible, road crews were being used.

To help with recovery efforts, additional police officers would be arriving in Tairāwhiti this weekend.

Police said while the worst of the weather had passed, regions still faced significant and potentially life-threatening challenges.

They said many people were worried about family and friends and more than 4500 people had been registered as uncontactable.

National Emergency Management Agency advice:

  • Put safety first. Don't take any chances. Act quickly if you see rising water. Floods and flash floods can happen quickly. If you see rising water do not wait for official warnings. Head for higher ground and stay away from floodwater.
  • Do not try to walk, play, swim, or drive in floodwater: even water just 15 centimetres deep can sweep you off your feet, and half a metre of water will carry away most vehicles.
  • If you have evacuated, please stay where you are until you are given the all-clear to go home.
  • If you don't need to evacuate, support those who do by staying home, staying off roads and staying safe.
  • If you are not able to contact your whānau in the heavily affected areas go to Police 105 website and complete the inquiry form or phone 105 and remember to update if you reconnect through other means.
  • Throw away food and drinking water that has come into contact with floodwater as it is often contaminated and can make you sick.
  • If you are without power eat the food from your fridge first, then your freezer. Then eat the food in the cupboard or your emergency kit.
  • People should stay up to date with the forecasts from MetService and continue to follow the advice of civil defence and emergency services.
  • A National State of Emergency is in place for an initial period of seven days and applies to regions that have declared a local State of Emergency.

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