22 Jun 2015

Inside the Whanganui East flood cordon

6:59 pm on 22 June 2015

I had no idea how bad the situation was for residents in Whanganui East until I walked through the police cordons this morning to take a closer look.

Kowhai Park, Whanganui, 22 June

Kowhai Park, Whanganui, on 22 June 2015. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

With my microphone, recorder, and my slightly-too-big gumboots, I stumbled through the mud along Anzac Parade, unsure of what I'd find. It just kept getting thicker as I went along.

There was red police tape on a number of driveway entrances to homes that had been evacuated.

But it wasn't only the houses that suffered from flood damage - Kowhai Park looked like its own river, next to the actual Whanganui River. It was just remarkable.

Kowhai Park, Whanganui, 22 June

Kowhai Park Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

Whanganui Girls College caretaker John Rigg strode along the swampy road with me, and told me what was under all that water.

While I could make out the tops of some slides, see-saws and the flying fox in the park, I would never have guess that next to it there was a skate boarding ramp, a motor car track, bumper cars and a mini golf course.

Mr Rigg said in his 50 years there he'd never seen anything quite like it, and it didn't compare at all to the last major flood there in 2004.

Anzac Parade Whanganui 22 June

Anzac Parade Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

After parting ways, I continued on. When the mud was well up to my knees, I tripped, and my left foot fell out of my gumboot. I landed in the mud, only just managing to hold myself up with my right arm.

Unfortunately for me, a man at a gate just up from where I was saw it all unfold. He didn't laugh, but directed me to a tap to wash the muck off. So kind.

Willy McGregor was back at his house for the first time after being evacuated three days ago.

His house on Anzac Parade had water marks half way up the fence, and there was thick silt all around his house.

He was surprisingly positive about his situation, saying the water only got up as far as the top doorstep to his front door - though he hadn't looked inside at that point.

Mr McGregor then steered me towards his backyard. It was completely underwater. He pointed to what was a six metre fence in the distance, but I could hardly see a metre of it.

He looks after three other houses - one on Duncan Street, and two others beside his house on Anzac parade.

He told me he doesn't have insurance, saying the time it took people affected by the earthquakes in Christchurch to get insurance put him off and he never anticipated an event like this would happen.

He said he would just have to keep his chin up and deal with it, like everyone else.

The police then wouldn't allow me back inside the cordon, saying the council needed to go through and give the affected residents the all-clear before they could go back home.

An officer said the houses of concern varied in degrees of severity and he wasn't sure how soon the residents, including Mr McGregor, could properly check out the damage done to their homes, let alone return to them.

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