October 3, 2023

Cyclone Gabrielle: Hillside falls through Piha house

Cyclone Gabrielle: Hillside falls through Piha house

Slips have isolated the west Auckland seaside village of Piha, with houses destroyed and flooding making evacuations perilous. Melanie Reid reports

A 100m stretch of cliff collapsed at North Piha last night, sending a landslide through Leanne McMillan and Peter McNally’s home and making them run for their lives.

The west coast village of Piha and nearby Kare Kare have been hit hard with multiple slips, flooding, landslides and a number of houses have been destroyed. 

Piha is now cut off as a major slip has made it inaccessible and village roads have been blocked by flooding or slips.

Leanne McMillan told Newsroom: “Boulders started coming down the hill and one smashed into our house then there was an enormous crash and Peter just said run, grab Archie [their dog] and run. Then basically the whole back of the hillside came down and smashed into the back of our house, the trees and everything smashed all the windows and boulders were still coming down.

“The whole hillside of north Piha behind us collapsed it just came all the way down from the top.”

The couple joined others at the Piha RSA on Monday night for shelter.

McMillan said they were happy to be alive and that they had made it to safety.

“We are lucky it happened at 7 pm  not in the middle of the night. We left the house with all the lights on the tv on everything we just ran it was just after the news,

“Then we collected all the neighbours and we are all here. We made sure no one was left and we only just made it here in time because now the bridge is flooded and we wouldn’t have been able to get across,” she said.

“There is going to be a lot of damage out there when day breaks.”

McNally said: “People who have lived here for 60 years say they have never seen a slip like this down at North Piha.”

As they fled, he had looked back at their home: “Yes and we saw boulders and trees, a tree through the back window, sticking through and the slip was still going and it was still moving through the house. When we go back our house might me on top of the house in front, we just don’t know. We have 100 metres straight up behind us and the whole thing came down.”

The Piha RSA is one of three emergency facilities in the village – the South surf club and Barnett Hall also in use – and people started arriving, many with their animals after the major land slide at North Piha.

RSA president Blair Strange said: “The local fire brigage has just been in [11.15 pm] and updated us and one of my neighbours’ houses has ended up on the road and it’s usual situation is 20m above the road.

“We’ve had people who have lost their houses, people who are close to losing houses, some people can’t get to the RSA because its blocked because of flooding, I’ve had to evacuate my own house because the house behind us has been seriously affected by a slip which is 10m above us.

“I came home there was a massive waterfall in my driveway, flowing like you’d see a dam when it burst.”

Strange said people were pretty stressed. “People have had to grab what they could and many have come with their dogs and their dogs are anxious as well so we are trying to keep everything calm here – we’re the Noah’s Ark of Piha.”

Would you like to receive notifications on latest updates? No Yes