May 29, 2023

‘Just horrendous’: Door-knocking volunteer work after flooding reveals badly-affected houses, dreadful smells

Related video: There are now over 1700 families displaced by Auckland's flooding - and getting rental properties for them is proving difficult.

Badly-affected houses and dreadful smells have been revealed after the Student Volunteer Army’s (SVA) ‘Big Clean-Up’ event.

Its CEO Jana Hood said around 200 volunteers supported door-knocking at 1200 homes in west Auckland on Sunday as well as on the North Shore, Epsom, Mt Roskill, Blockhouse Bay and Onehunga.

According to Hood, over 20 homes still required support with cleaning, while 30 others had been referred to other organisations for services like clothing and food.

“Many Aucklanders are still waiting to hear from their insurance companies and are afraid to move until they do,” she said.

“Others were wanting to rip up sodden, sewage-contaminated carpets, but were worried this might impact their insurance cover. So we encouraged people to take photos before removing any floor coverings.

“The smell of rotting food and rotten carpets in some houses was just horrendous, but they don’t want to leave their homes and their communities.”

Sam Johnson, who founded the SVA in 2011 following the Canterbury earthquakes, described the stories yesterday as “heart-wrenching”.

“The volunteer work was awful. It smells dreadful and is hard work,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hood said a lot of residents are too proud to ask for help, especially in ethnic communities.

She recommended these groups reach out to SVA for volunteer support with cleaning and deliveries.

“We’re also still finding small, badly-affected pockets of houses and the only way to locate these is via door-knocking,” she said.

Last week the SVA became one of only two volunteer groups participating officially with Auckland Council on its incident response.

The team plans to continue cleaning up homes with another big event in the Mount Roskill area planned for later in the week.

People can help support the SVA’s effort by donating to SVA at

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