Piha resident Geoff Creighton was desperately sandbagging his home when he thought he heard thunder, waited for the lightning and then the hill behind it collapsed.
Geoff Creighton is thankful for one small mercy.
He was frantically sandbagging to stop a torrent of water at his and his wife Rose’s home on Marine Parade South about 7 pm on Monday.
“I’ve never seen that much water before, and the water was raging down the south side of the house. But I never imagined the enormity of what was going to happen.”
When the hill behind his South Piha home started to creak, crack and rush down on top of his and his neighbours’ home, it was still daylight.
“It would’ve been terrifying if it was pitch dark. We didn’t know where it was coming from. It was still light, and I thought it was thunder at first, and I was waiting for the lightning. Then I thought maybe it was a slip. And it was one of three.
“I was standing on the road looking at it and I heard another massive crack. I saw the slip come down the very south end of Piha that took out the lookout track.
“It was very slow motion. It wasn’t all action. You heard the crack, then the slumping, and you could hear all the tree trunks smashing and crackling and breaking.”
Creighton, a business owner, watched as the slip behind his place smashed his home, taking possessions and memories. Then his neighbours encouraged him to go to another place for safety. “We were starting to see a bit more mud come down the hill. And my son went up the back with the torch and could see the cabin trees coming down and the bank was just sliding. So we thought, yeah, we better go.”
On Tuesday, as Creighton looked at the wreckage of his house he was devastated.
“You’ve got to think ‘nobody was hurt’. I hope it’s the same for everyone else out here. But yeah, I love this place. It’s devastating, tough for the family. It’s hard to process at the moment.”
Living on the wild west coast, he and others in Piha are used to the elements.
“You wonder what’s going to happen on any other day. Out here, you’d have a storm and you’d put on your boots, having a look around.
“But I just don’t really feel like doing that. I just don’t want to go and see what’s happened to people’s places.”
Instead he’ll focus on the natural grandeur of Piha – “the landscape … and think about the beauty that’s out here.”