30 May 2023

Pensioners lose everything after Bay of Plenty flash flooding

8:01 pm on 30 May 2023
The clean-up at Waihi Beach Surf Life Saving Club after the flood.

The clean-up at Waihī Beach Surf Life Saving Club after the flood. Photo: RNZ / Luka Forman

Some pensioners have lost all their belongings after flash flooding quickly inundated their homes in Waihī Beach, in Bay of Plenty.

The extreme weather brought 44 millimetres of rain in just an hour on Monday, and more fell overnight.

Dozens of people fled their homes and spent Tuesday assessing the damage.

Brian was one of the worst hit - he lost everything. He said the situation changed rapidly.

The water was up to his chest and he struggled to get his front door open because of the force of the water. He eventually managed to get out of the back door of his home, before he was pulled up onto a ridge in his backyard.

His entire home was covered in mud. The only thing he could salvage was a pair of pants. He had no time to grab any valuables.

"You can actually see how people get stranded and stuck. Two or three minutes, I mean if people weren't able, they'd be underwater. We were lucky we got out with our lives like everyone else around here. But you had to be quick because it happened so quick."

Meanwhile, John Lormier said he was in shock as he watched it unfold.

"I was up at the RSA when it rained and you've never seen pelting rain like it in your life. It was just absolutely terrible, all the carpark up there was underwater. The bowling green was underwater."

A digger cleaning up Waihi Beach in Bay of Plenty after flash flooding.

A digger cleaning up Waihī Beach in Bay of Plenty after flash flooding. Photo: RNZ / Luka Forman

Waihī Beach Surf Life Saving Club was also underwater. President Dave Litton said the building was completely flooded, which hampered rescue efforts.

"We couldn't get the boats out, we had a call go out... got down here and it was just a water-flow through the club."

All electrical equipment needed to be replaced, Litton said.

The owner of the Beach House Cafe, Steve, was offering free food and coffee to hard-hit locals. He said that was what the Waihī Beach community was all about.

"The community just comes together when this happens... people rally together, and it's an amazing thing."

The clean-up at Waihi Surf Lifesaving Club after flooding.

The clean-up at Waihī Surf Lifesaving Club after flooding. Photo: RNZ / Luka Forman

Katikati-Waihī Beach Ward councillor Allan Sole said council and emergency response teams had been working around the clock to ensure residents had all the help they needed.

"As you know, often there're more vulnerable people as well in our community, and they've lost their home, so the good thing is they've found temporary accommodation quite quickly."

Sole said community spirit and resilience had shone through in this tough weather event.