November 30, 2023

‘This isn’t a nanny state’: Frustrations grow in Esk Valley as some ignore evacuation order

While most people respected Civil Defence's evacuation orders some broke the law - and busted through the roadblock.

On Saturday afternoon Esk Valley residents were allowed back onto their properties after a precautionary evacuation.

But frustrations are growing, and some people are not listening to authorities.

While most people respected Civil Defence’s evacuation orders some broke the law – and busted through the roadblock.

“We’ve had two runners go through, but we’ve notified the proper authorities who are looking for them to get them out,” said road worker Lattie Puna.

As we were talking to Puna, the offenders reappeared and yelled at him.

“Don’t you talk to me about authority!” one woman exclaimed.

“Sorry ma’am, we’re just doing our job ma’am, we’re only trying to save lives,” Puna replied.

Something the woman didn’t seem to care about as frustrations grew.

“This isn’t a nanny state. If the Police can go down there, so can we,” she said.

Those police are helping to keep road workers safe after reports last week of guns being pulled at people guarding flood cordons.

“A lot of our guys are on edge because of what happened,” Puna said.

People are also on edge about the heavy rain – the Esk River rose by one-and-a-half metres last night.

The water came up over SH2 at Whirinaki overnight, and one contractor who was working up at the Devil’s Elbow said he was lucky to get out this morning.

“We got to where we were working and there was another slip come down, we quickly, we got the call to get out of there. As I say, if we’d been ten minutes – we wouldn’t have got out of there,” said Dirtworks contractor Nick Kerley.

He’s worried all their hard work will be undone with the latest deluge causing more landslides.

“It’s just unbelievable. There’s just thousands and thousands of tonnes of material there – just waiting to come down.”

That road is still a massive mess.

“This is like something out of the f**king war zone out of the movies isn’t it,” one person said in a dash cam video.

A narrow path was cleared on Thursday, but that work was put on hold during last night’s storm.

“So she’s quite amazing the devastation that’s bloody done,” one local said.

Silt and slash is piled up on all sides, while below there are hundreds of slips.

“I’ve never seen it like this, it’s actually un-bloody real. She’s going to be a journey to reopen this road,” one person said.

As for State Highway 5 from Napier to Taupo – the Defence Force told Newshub they’ve just managed to drive the length of it, although it’s expected to be closed to the public for months.

By early afternoon, the flooding threat had eased and Esk Valley residents were allowed back home.

But for Whirinaki local Sue Paterson this is the first time she’s seen her flooded property since Gabrielle hit 12 days ago because she’s been on holiday.

“It’s a mess, f**king mess. So sad,” she said. “[Going to] go home and give my husband a cuddle.”

Because a cuddle can go a long way in times like these.

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