December 10, 2023

Tokomaru Bay faces further evacuations as rain continues to fall

Watch: Evacuated residents from Tokomaru Bay will be out of their homes for another night as rain continues to fall in the region.

Evacuated residents from Tokomaru Bay will be out of their homes for another night as rain continues to fall in the region. 

Locals are waiting for experts to assess the debris dam that’s at risk of bursting and flooding their community.

The Mangahauini River runs right through the heart of Tokomaru Bay, but further upstream a wall of water is threatening its entire existence.

“It will be a catastrophe if all of that stuff that has built up comes rolling down the Mangahauini River, we’re going to have families without homes,” Lillian Te Hau-Ward said.

On Thursday residents in the township were forced to evacuate because of a dam made of slash and debris that came down from the hills around it. Now, it’s holding 400,000 cubic meters of water.

“We’ve modelled the impact flow from that – that is really justified in getting people out of harm’s way,” Tairawhiti Civil Defence Controller Ben Green said.

With the community cut off,  people waited at a local marae for experts to arrive.

“So we’ve had to redeploy some of our volunteers to go up to that dam and monitor it which I think is unfair,” Green said.

Whanau were left to face it alone.

“We’re their hope. We’re the only hope that they’ve got and when there’s no hope then there’s just hopelessness,” Lillian Te Hau-Ward said.

It’s not the only Tairawhiti community that’s still cut off. Inland from Gisborne, one road leads to Waimata Valley, now filled with woody debris.

“Very disappointed ’cause you know this is not the first time this has happened and you’d think the forestry would do something about it,” said Tiara Graynder-Hollis.

Debris is everywhere you look in Waimata Valley. You can imagine the power of the water that tore through here, it’s torn out part of the road and left all the debris sitting on the bed of the river.

Crews are working as hard as they can to clear it because of the rain, and they don’t want a repeat of last week. 

Meanwhile, locals are at odds with who’s responsible, some claiming forestry slash makes up only 50 percent. 

“That’s a load of crap,” Te Hau-Ward said.

“I don’t know what they’re going on about 50/50 cause it definitely isn’t,” Graynder-Hollis added.

The Government announced an inquiry into slash yesterday, slash that’s wreaked havoc in places like Tokomaru Bay time and time again. 

Even the most staunch of people are tired and broken.

“I had to go home and prepare our people so I’m leaving my family, my moko who needed me to come home and prepare our people. It shouldn’t be this way anymore,” one person said.

And if that debris dam breaches – they may have no home to return to.

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