June 4, 2023

Piha’s gravity-defying waters take on formerly crowded house

Piha’s gravity-defying waters take on formerly crowded house

The inundation of Neil Finn’s house in Piha suggests the council’s flood risk data is giving people a false sense of security 

The fetid waters have been pumped away from Piha’s Garden Road, but the water line tells a story of a flood that took no prisoners.

Footage from Piha locals shows the water rushing over the rise between Garden Road and Marine Parade North, essentially linking two water bodies separated by a ten metre ridge.


Auckland picking up the pieces

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360mm of rain fell on the coastal village last Monday, bringing hills down with it and cutting off access to hundreds of homes.

Floodwaters amassed over the northbound Garden Rd and Marine Parade North, while locals and local politicians decried the public safety risks of putrid water sitting out in the sun.

Along Garden Road, steep driveways that usually provided a view down to the road were level with the water surface of a broad pond.

Piha’s long been home to the elite and the creative, and the properties lining the banks of this unwelcome feature proved no exception.

One of the homes perched on the ridge between the flooded zones belonged to Kiwi music icon Neil Finn.

It appears Finn was away from home, but he certainly didn’t take the weather with him.

The musician’s four-bedroom $3.3 million dollar property saw water rushing through it before draining down the hill towards the ocean.

Despite being listed by homes.co.nz as being on a steep rise, the 1882m2 property still saw waters rise right up to its front door and a minor slip on the front lawn.

It’s minor damage compared to properties within just a stone’s throw – and of course it’s not comparable to the devastation seen in regions to the south.

However, it’s a sign of current flood risk data as provided by Auckland Council providing some homeowners with a false sense of security.

Flood zone data for Piha shows two distinct floodplains in that area, located on the lower ground that Garden Road and Marine Parade North follow.

The map shows that homeowners atop the ridge shouldn’t have to worry.

Last week told those homeowners a different story.

Auckland Emergency Management duty controller Rachel Kelleher said on Tuesday that efforts continued to get bottled water, sanitary items and food out to Piha locals, while slips in the area remained active.

Meanwhile, a community hub had been set up at the Piha Surf Life Saving Club attended by council officers and members of the Red Cross.

Welfare, insurance, accommodation assistance and financial support are available there and at similar sites in Muriwai and Karekare.

Assessment of damaged homes in the area continues, although the council is asking people with damage it hasn’t reached yet to get in touch with their insurers.

Council regulatory services director Craig Hobbs stressed that people should not go into red or yellow placarded homes.

“The reason we’ve done this isn’t to inconvenience people, it’s to keep people safe,” he said. “I know there’s a temptation for people to get in to get to particularly pets that are indoors… but the risk to human life is pretty significant in those areas where we’ve taken that action.”

Almost 2000 dwellings across the Auckland region have received red or yellow stickers following the two weather events of the past few weeks.

As locals clean up and take stock of the mess, Piha continues to take a break from its identity as a Mecca for local tourism.

“Last weekend, we asked Aucklanders not to go to our West Coast beaches and avoid Karekare, Piha, Anawhata, Te Henga Bethells, and Muriwai,” Kelleher said. “This week, we continue to remind those who are not residents to please stay away.”

Finn himself was announced yesterday to be rolling up his sleeves in his own way – his name was prominent on the lineup of local musicians playing a benefit concert in Christchurch this Friday to raise money for cyclone relief.

The former Split Enz and Crowded House member will be joined by Lorde, Marlon Williams and L.A.B at the Christchurch Town Hall, with proceeds going to the Red Cross.

Finn spoke to Guyon Espiner on RNZ Tuesday morning to promote the gig, saying it felt good to be able to do something for people whose lives and livelihoods had been upended around the North Island.

He said his place was “teetering on the verge of a hill” and “not in particularly great shape”.

“This has really hit home in Piha, the landscape’s changed,” he said. “We’ve spent a lot of time on the west coast, so we feel it in a fairly direct way.”

He mentioned the symbol that perhaps best illustrates the devastation Piha has been through – the ‘nose’ of Lion Rock crashing to the ground below.

“It’s only symbolic but a lot of people are hurting out there and all around the country,” Finn said.

But even before the Ōtautahi 4 Aotearoa tickets began to sell, people were giving generously to try to help Piha get back on its feet.

A Give A Little campaign set up for the Piha Surf Life Saving Club has already seen more than $16,000 raised in three days.

That’s $16,000 from just 104 donors – an average of around $150 per person. 

For a country simultaneously dealing with a cost-of-living crisis and inflation hikes when the waters began to fall and the winds began to blow, it’s testament to the warmth of spirit seen on the sodden streets of the North Island over the past few trying weeks.

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