An orchardist in the rural Hawke’s Bay community of Puketapu, where another person’s been confirmed dead, is calling on the Prime Minister to visit his flood-stricken community.
The area, just west of Napier, has been wiped out by the cyclone – but it wasn’t floodwaters alone that caused the most destruction.
The deceased is Maree Greene who lived on Dartmoor Road in Puketapu. Her daughter Rachel, who’d spent days trying to find her, said in a post online she was a “beautiful” woman.
Kerry Hamlin has been on a hunt for belongings swept kilometres from her home.
Hamlin, who’s lived here for 35 years, found only a few items, but belongings important to her grandchildren tangled in the mud-stricken grape vines on Puketapu’s Dartmoor Road.
“That’s one of my children’s books and now my grandchildren’s,” she said, showing a caterpillar book.
“This looks like a desert. This doesn’t actually look like my homeland anymore. There’s no fences, there’s trees gone. All those landmarks you know of. Gone.”
When the waves washed through her home, she was not there. Her daughter however was and scrambled to the roof where she waited for hours before being airlifted to safety.
“Six hours from hell. Six hours of having to tell my son over in London who felt completely useless, hopeless. He didn’t know what was going on,” Hamlin said.
Now it’s a case of starting all over again.
This is Dartmoor Road in Puketapu – a place where apples and grapes once thrived, now transformed into a wasteland.
It was not just the water that caused such widespread destruction in the Dartmoor Valley. It was forestry slash and tonnes of it – that smashed through stop banks in the Tutaikuri River.
Puketapu resident Alex Wilson saw it all unfold from his rooftop – all while wondering if he’d make it out alive.
“We were on the roof for about three or four hours,” he told Newshub.
He said his house has been “wrecked”.
“The ceiling has come down and the silt is probably a metre-and-a-half high.”
His dad, Des Wilson, who’s been an orchardist 40 years, has lost his 12 hectares of apples. But he says it’s the slash that put people’s lives at risk.
“The practices that are used at the moment, they need to change. We can’t keep happening the destruction that the slash is causing coming down the rivers. It’s so graphic, blowing out stopbanks, putting peoples lives at risk.”
And he wants political leaders – including Prime Minister Chris Hipkins – to come and see the issue for themselves.
“Well most definitely. He’s in charge,” he said. “I want him to understand.”
Residents say they need more heavy machinery to start removing the tonnes of slash from their land. They also want fast-tracked approval from the regional council to burn the logs on their land.
In nearby Whirinaki, Newshub met Steve Edge. He’s been boating back and forth from his house.
From above, the steel forks on the trailers of two of his trucks, worth half a million dollars, are just visible about the floodwaters.
“Yep we’re marooned, the water is 2 metres deep,” he said.
“Me and the neighbour here and the other neighbour, we’re all stuck at home as we can’t get out here through the forest as the only road is through the Esk River and it’s blocked.”
Isolated and wondering when that will change.
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