Police Minister Stuart Nash has defended comments in which he said “now is not the time” for gangs to be taking advantage of victims of Cyclone Gabrielle.
Residents in cyclone-hit Hawke’s Bay have resorted to erecting roadblocks in some suburbs to protect their properties and homes from looters and thieves, and police have so far arrested 42 people.
Grilled by Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB this morning, Nash was asked whether he thought the gangs would actually “pull their heads in” after the minister had made the plea to do so. “My plea ... no, not my plea ... my request is pull your bloody head in, get your animals off the streets and out of their cars. They have whanau and family affected as well. Get out and start helping them,” Nash told Hosking.
Referencing Nash’s comment about it not being the right time to commit crime, Hosking asked the minister when was the right time.
“There is no right time,” Nash responded.
Nash said that the criminal behaviour by gangs in Hawkes Bay was totally unacceptable.
”Police are onto this and, as a community, we won’t stand for such behaviour by gangs.”
Nash said gangs had a very strict hierarchy, with leaders and then men who go out on the streets.
”I ask them to take control of these men because their families are also impacted.”
Nash said it was not the right time especially when the city was in distress and people had no communication.
- ‘What the hell? We’re alive': Massive slip misses couple’s home by a mere metre
- Cyclone Gabrielle predicted to impact inflation says JMI Wealth
- Steven Joyce: Where is the money coming from for the Cyclone support package?
”We don’t want gangs. I called gang leaders and told them to get this under control, they call themselves community leaders so this is the time to show that leadership.”
The region had got 120 additional frontline police staff in the wake of the cyclone and an extra 25 were coming on top of 770 already there, Nash said.
”Eagle helicopter has also come down from Auckland.”
Gang response units were also on the way and army personnel were also in the region, he said.
Forty-two people had been arrested since the storm, Nash said. Referencing a false rumour that Gun City in Napier had been ramraided, Nash said, “this is the situation when you get no power and no telecommunications. There is an information void.”
”I understand people are highly stressed and suffering in ways they haven’t before.”
It was up to the district commander to determine the resources she needed in terms of the police force, Nash said. He said he was aware of what had been going on in the city and he had contacted the police commissioner about increasing resources. He told him that Eastern District Commander Jeanette Park had the authority to get any resources she needed.
STORY CONTINUES AFTER LIVE BLOG:
The extent of the disaster of Cyclone Gabrielle is becoming clearer every day as more fatalities are confirmed, says Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, while the recovery and rebuild effort is going to come with some “tough calls” and a “big price tag”.
There are now 11 confirmed dead almost a week after the cyclone smashed across large swathes of the North Island, most devastatingly in the island’s east. The latest deaths were a person found in their home in the Napier suburb of Onekawa on Thursday, and a person found in Crownthorpe, near Hastings, on Saturday night, police said.
Grave concerns remain for others.
“This going to be big,” Hipkins told reporters at a National Emergency Management Agency (Nema) briefing in Wellington yesterday.
Crops across Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti are in many cases completely destroyed, bridges and roads washed away, vital infrastructure severely damaged, and entire communities still cut off from the rest of the country. In better news, most of Napier should have power back by tomorrow at the latest, mayor Kirsten Wise said this morning. “Not having power for coming up a week now...is just - yeah, that’s what we need to focus on,” she told TVNZ.
Hipkins said New Zealand has failed to invest enough in its infrastructure “and this has to change”, while the country now needs to build back better, and “some tough calls” will need to be made.
“I’m absolutely committed to doing that,” he said. “There is no doubt that as a country we have a steep mountain ahead of us, and we will climb that together.”
Hipkins also warned the recovery is “going to come with a big price tag”. “We will build back better but we will also need to build back more resilient than we have before,” he explained.
Asked if this year’s Budget would need to be reworked, Hipkins said the Government would have to reprioritise decisions and make some “big Budget calls”.
A decision will also need to be made soon on whether the Census could go ahead as planned in just over two weeks.
Search and rescue boats on the coastline along Ahuriri, Napier. Photo / Clive Holland
Urgent supplies of food, water and fuel are being airlifted to isolated communities. Photo / NZDF
Power remains an issue for many communities on the eastern coast of the North Island and Hipkins said 28,000 homes, mostly in Napier and Hastings, remained without electricity.
Search teams were seen yesterday on Whirinaki Beach, near the mouth of the Esk River - which early Tuesday sent a 7-metre torrent of water, silt and forestry slash through Esk Valley homes, killing 2-year-old Ivy Collins and forcing hundreds of others - including elsewhere in Hawke’s Bay - to scramble into and onto roofs to survive.
As of yesterday afternoon, 6000 people were registered as uncontactable, with 3000 people found to be safe as the lost and found numbers see-saw daily.
Those affected by Cyclone Gabrielle are being urged to register that they’re safe online at forms.police.govt.nz/im-alive.
The Defence Force is unloading much-needed supplies at Napier's port. Photo / NZDF
While vital power, water and telecommunications services are slowly being restored, and some roads re-opened, the situation in Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti remained serious.
Opportunistic crime was “overwhelmingly” in the minority, with a hard-line promised, police said earlier.
Police have arrested 42 people in Hawke’s Bay and 17 in Tairāwhiti for looting and dishonesty offending, Hipkins said.
Residents in Hawke’s Bay’s Puketapu set up manned roadblocks on Saturday - which appeared to have the blessing of police and the New Zealand Defence Force - to deter looters after a suspected incident earlier.
And Vodafone boss Jason Paris said generators were being stolen from mobile sites, cutting connectivity soon after it had been restored. Most of these generators are GPS tracked.
“Times are tough, but don’t be a d***,” Paris tweeted.
Chorus has also fixed the northern fibre link into Gisborne so Vodafone broadband and mobile services were coming back online, Paris tweeted yesterday.
The same went for 2degrees’ fibre connection to Gisborne and Wairoa, and home broadband for Slingshot, Orcon and some 2degrees customers in the region, 2degrees said.
“This also means 111 service will work for all operators where coverage is available.”
A police officer guards a queue for a local supermarket in Gisborne on Thursday. Photo / George Heard
Police have already sent in reinforcements amid rising tempers, and Eastern District Commander Superintendent Jeanette Park confirmed two gang members were arrested last night after shots were fired in Maraenui, Napier.
“I won’t tolerate any criminal behaviour,” she said.
The HMNZS Canterbury will leave Lyttelton today and is scheduled to arrive in Napier on Tuesday, along with equipment to help with the emergency response.
New Zealand has accepted support from a number of countries. Twenty-five Australian emergency response staff are on the ground in Hawke’s Bay, with two more helping the national co-ordination centre.
On Sunday, Hipkins accepted an offer of help from Fiji, which will send 10 defence force staff, four fire crew members, and four disaster management staff.
The US and Australia are also helping with satellite imagery and the Government is in the final stages of securing the help of an Australian C-130 Hercules to help with the recovery.
There were “a dozen or so” other offers of assistance from other countries.
Hipkins also cancelled plans to fly to Fiji next week for a Pacific Islands Forum special leaders retreat. It would have been Hipkins’ first meeting with forum leaders since becoming Prime Minister and an important opportunity to welcome Kiribati back into the forum after its dramatic withdrawal last year.
Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni will travel in his place.
Roads and bridges have been laid to waste by Cyclone Gabrielle, including Poutere Rd south of Hastings, after the Waipawa River reverted to its original course - 140 years after being diverted. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Strong hopes electricity would be restored across most of Napier by midweek, including Taradale, were expressed during a ministerial visit to Transpower’s Redclyffe substation yesterday.
Everyone in Napier wanted to know when the power would be back on, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said.
With the bypass operable through the Whakatu sub-station, between Clive and Hastings, Unison Network could get supply to customers in central and south Napier - and with a separate route to Redclyffe it hoped to get Taradale online by Monday night, Transpower grid delivery general manager Mark Ryall said.
But a “100 per cent” fix for all the customers would be “weeks”.
Meanwhile, SH2 between Ōpōtiki and Gisborne and SH2 between Gisborne and Wairoa are open to the public between 7am and 7pm, Waka Kotahi’s national emergency response team spokesman Wayne Oldfield said.
Several other state highway routes in the region remain closed, with updates on Waka Kotahi’s website or during Civil Defence information updates on Newstalk ZB 96.7.
Stevie-Lee and Matt Goodgame, with baby Frankie, after the family was airlifted from their property at Ōtāne. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Aucklanders were yesterday urged to stay away from Karekare, Piha, Te Henga Bethells and Muriwai until further notice.
“We want Aucklanders to stay safe and ensure emergency crews and response teams can access these communities to provide the support needed”, Auckland Emergency Management duty controller Adam Maggs said.
Amid the gloom, moments of cheer come.
ASB has matched the $2 million already donated by generous Kiwis to the joint New Zealand Red Cross and NZ Herald/NZME New Zealand Disaster Relief Fund, taking the total to $4m.
Donations can be made at https://bit.ly/3xxmDSu.
Seven metres of water surged through Esk Valley during Cyclone Gabrielle early on Tuesday, forcing many to seek safety on and in their roofs. Photo / Warren Buckland
And more stories of survival emerged, including that of a 10-day-old baby girl just released from a hospital special care unit when she was trapped with her family for three days in Hawke’s Bay’s Ōtāne.
Baby Frankie, her 2-year-old sister and parents Stevie-Lee and Matt Goodgame were airlifted after a bridge was washed away and three large slips covered their driveway - coming down with boulders the size of cars.
“I was starting to think if I wasn’t eating properly, because I’m breastfeeding, then my milk would dry up, and we didn’t have any formula,” Stevie-Lee Goodgame said.
Survivor’s guilt also kicked in after she heard a heavily pregnant friend in Meanee was rescued from her roof on Tuesday night - but also good news, as the baby had since arrived safely.
Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you