17 Dec 2011

Business concern at impact of storm on holiday traffic

9:44 pm on 17 December 2011

Businesses in Nelson-Tasman are concerned at the impact of this week's storm as the peak summer holiday season fast approaches.

Both regions have been under a state of emergency since Wednesday and that is expected to remain in place for some time in areas including Golden Bay, Nelson city and Richmond.

One of the worst-hit districts is Pohara, at the eastern end of Golden Bay - a popular summer holiday destination.

It bore the brunt of the heavy rain and a torrent of mud swept through 20 homes and the camping ground.

The campground has also closed because it has no power or sewerage.

Business people who rely on the summer trade are anxious to get the water back on so restaurant and cafe kitchens can operate, and toilets can be used.

In nearby Ligar Bay, residents have been digging out after a 20-metre-wide slip crashed through their homes, in one case submerging the entire first floor of a two-storey home in mud.

One resident said most of his furniture had been destroyed.

"It all happened so quickly we weren't really able to get much up off the floor," he told Radio New Zealand News.

Cable Bay cut off

Cable Bay, which is 15 minutes drive east of Nelson City has been completely isolated for a week and is like to remain cut off for at least another seven days.

Civil Defence group controller, Jim Frater says it has been badly hit and has been the top priority for Civil Defence.

On Saturday afternoon, the local lines company flew in staff to start restoring electricity and Civil Defence delivered supplies by helicopter, including food, water, sanitary items, baby and pet supplies, batteries, bottled gas and portable cookers.

A pregnant woman, on holiday from Australia, was airlifted out on the return flight.

By Saturday evening, most of the 40 Cable Bay homes without electricity had the supply back on.

Residents have no water supply but Mr Frater says they want to remain in Cable Bay because they have pets and animals and other commitments.

The owners of a holiday park in Cable Bay say they will face a major loss of income if the road to the area remains cut off for weeks at the peak of the summer break.

Barbara Stuart, who runs the Cable Bay Holiday Park, says there is talk that it may be three weeks before the road is restored.

She says they have been saying that the camp will be closed because they couldn't be sure when people would be able to get access to them.

But Mrs Stuart says good progress on clearing the road on Saturday and she is starting to feel more optimistic that some campers will be able to get through eventually.

House inspections underway

A dozen specialist teams inspected the more than 300 homes throughout the Nelson-Tasman area that have been affected by, or are potentially at risk from, slips and flooding.

The majority of homes are in the Nelson area.

Civil Defence says the teams will sticker the homes according to their risk.

It is advising residents who have left their homes of their own volition or been asked to evacuate and return to find it stickered, to ring either Nelson City Council on 03 546 0200 or Tasman District Council on 03 543 8400 for more information, or visit the Civil Defence website at nelsontasmancivildefence.co.nz

Civil Defence says occupants of homes with stickers may be able to move back in time, but their houses are not habitable at present.

Some 230 slips have now been reported in Nelson city alone and a new phone line has been set up to report them. It is called the Slipline and is 03 5438498.

The Earthquake Commission has had 72 claims so far.

Recovery to begin next week

Civil Defence group controller, Jim Frater says the civil defence operation will move into recovery mode early next week, once teams of building inspectors, engineers and welfare staff have visited each of the estimated 300 affected homes

Full building assessments should start once each home has had an initial visit.