24 Feb 2023

Residents fume over being left to dispose of cyclone silt

12:18 pm on 24 February 2023
Raipoia Brightwell lives on Marion st, Gisborne. The silt is over a metre deep at their home next to the Waimata river.

More than a metre of silt covers this property in Gisborne. Photo: RNZ / Kate Green

Gisborne people clearing silt from flooded homes and businesses are not impressed with the council's solution on how and where to dump it.

There are two places to go and at the Dunstan Road site only one person showed up yesterday.

The other site is Matokitoki Valley Road for rural, commercial and industry disposal.

Some residents said they did have the means or the ability to transfer the silt from their property to the dumping station.

Master carver and artist Matahi Brightwell's entire property beside the Waimatā River is blanketed in mud and there is a mountain of silt.

Waimata River in Gisborne, as seen from Stafford Street looking towards the Tainui Sea Scouts clubrooms on 15 February 2023.

The Waimatā River in Gisborne, as seen from Stafford Street looking towards the Tainui Sea Scouts clubrooms on 15 February 2023. Photo: RNZ / Kate Green

Gavin Edmonds who was one of eight helpers at Brightwell's flood damaged home said getting the silt off properties was a big job.

"I think they need to assign someone to the job, it's going to be a fulltime job. Someone that's fluent in taking the stuff there. Otherwise, people are going to start throwing it back in the river I suppose," Edmonds said.

Meanwhile, Brightwell was starting to worry about the clean-up affecting his health.

"Imagine my driveway, that's just fine fine dust. We're not allowed to use the water so a stranger to me backed up his truck with a 1000 litre tank on the back and waterblasted some of my path and inside so we wouldn't be walking in toxic dust," Brightwell said.

Eventually, the silt will go to the Dunstan Road dump station - one of two which opened yesterday.

But Brightwell was not happy that it was up to him to get it there.

"It's unreasonable, I'm a ratepayer why haven't they been here to the ones paying rates and offer us assistance?

"No, you've got to fill in forms. I've filled in three forms over three days and my status has changed, what's wrong with our system? Do I have to fill out 20 forms after a week to get assistance? That's not fair," Brightwell said.

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Others agreed - one woman telling RNZ the silt was too heavy to move and some areas did not have access to trucks or trailers.

Kevin Tims, who has lived at his property for 56 years, said he will not be using the dump station.

"We're not using it, we haven't got any access to get down there so what we're doing is just spreading it over the section."

Mayor Rehette Stoltz said people should get in touch with their insurance companies.

"First of all we ask every person who has insurance to go to their insurance company and they pay for silt removal as well as skip bins.

"We have been dealing with some neighbourhoods that had massive issues like the Te Karaka township where council help with some silt removal to the site and skip bins but that's an ongoing discussion with our community," Stoltz said.

The council estimated around 250,000 cubic metres of silt will be removed from homes; 200,000 cu m will be from Te Karaka with the rest from riverside homes in the city.

Advice from the National Emergency Management Agency for 24 February

  • Keep up to date with advice from your local CDEM Group or from civildefence.govt.nz
  • Floodwaters may be full of sewage, chemicals and other hazardous materials and should be avoided as much as possible
  • Floodwater can carry bacteria that can contaminate food
  • Protect yourself when cleaning up flood water and mud by wearing a properly fitted P2- or N95-rated mask, goggles, gloves, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, and gumboots or work shoes
  • Throw away all food and drinking water that has come in contact with floodwater
  • Do not eat garden produce if the soil has been flooded
  • In power outages use torches instead of candles, and only use camp cookers and BBQs outdoors.
  • Conserve water where you are advised to
  • Check the location of pipes and cables before you dig; see Chorus' Before You Dig website and beforeudig.co.nz for all utilities
  • The best way to assist in the response is through financial donations and NOT through donated goods.

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