Hawke's Bay Civil Defence cyclone response ends after 77 days

6:10 pm on 28 April 2023
Esk Valley on 20 February following Cyclone Gabrielle.

Hawke's Bay and the east coast were some of the worst hit areas in Cyclone Gabrielle in February. Photo: RNZ/ Nick Monro

Hawke's Bay's Civil Defence response to Cyclone Gabrielle has come to an end, 77 days after it was first activated.

Group controller Ian Macdonald said the severity of the storm was unprecedented and the response was the most complex and large-scale ever mounted in Hawke's Bay.

But Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise said there has been a "deathly silence" from government and officials on whether rebuilding can start in places like Esk Valley.

"Our community is incredibly frustrated.

"We've provided the information from the local councils around the high risk area analysis, the insurance companies have done the same from their data, and the two are very closely aligned.

"So we are beginning to lose patience with the process and communication around what's going to happen in that rebuild space," Wise told Checkpoint.

More than a month ago on 22 March, Cyclone Recovery Minister Grant Robertson said the government should have details on which weather-hit areas were high risk within three weeks, and could then make decisions about rebuilding.

'People rolled up their sleeves' to help Hawke's Bay

Macdonald said that over the past 10 weeks, more than 1000 people have worked with the 12 staff from the Emergency Management Group.

"This response has been a massive multi-agency operation, relying heavily on staff from the emergency management sector, the Defence Force, central government agencies, emergency services, our councils, volunteers, and people who simply decided to roll up their sleeves and help," he said in a statement.

Hawke's Bay Civil Defence controller Ian Macdonald

Ian Macdonald during the cyclone response. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Macdonald said most were deployed from outside of Hawke's Bay.

With the immediate recovery past, work can now go on preparing the communities to be more resilient in the future, he said.

"With the ongoing repair and reinstatement of vital infrastructure, access to many isolated communities has been restored.

"We're now at the point where pockets of isolated households can be supported by local district councils.

"The earthquakes near Pōrangahau on Wednesday are also a reminder that hazards can present at any time. Planning and preparing for re-escalation in the occurrence of another emergency event is a critical part of our ongoing work."

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