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'Pretty brutal out there': Hawke's Bay latest

Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 Feb 2023, 11:42AM
Photo / Paul Taylor
Photo / Paul Taylor

'Pretty brutal out there': Hawke's Bay latest

Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 Feb 2023, 11:42AM

Parts of the Hawke’s Bay region remain cut off today without water, power, or cell coverage, with officials scrambling to find out more about the devastation in the cold light of day.

Two people are confirmed dead, others are still trapped or awaiting supplies, and officials have “big gaps of knowledge” as to the state of isolated areas.

One woman died after a landslip on her property in northern Hawke’s Bay and another person’s body has been found on a storm-ravaged beach.

Central Hawke’s Bay District Council chief executive Doug Tate said it was “pretty brutal out there” and said council’s thoughts went out to everybody affected by Cyclone Gabrielle.

“The scale of it is just incredible, really,” he said.

Council still was not sure of the state of some areas in the region due to the breakdown in communications - caused by damage to fibre lines providing mobile coverage to the area.

 “Out toward the coast we’ve got big gaps of knowledge. It’s sort of funny, in a normal day losing a bridge is a really big deal and pretty much by the end of yesterday it was just another bridge that we’re just adding to the list.”

There are about 150 houses in lower Waipawa that are underwater, he said.

“You know, people kind of laughed at us when we said ‘look guys, you need to get out’, and in the space of an hour and a half, not even half an hour, we had nearly a metre and a half of water through some properties.”

Damage to farm areas was a big focus for council, “trying to get some reconnaissance over that wider area”.

He also said parts of the region had no water supply and could expect not to have any for several days.

“Both of our treatment plants have been submerged quite significantly,” he said.

“It’s going to be pretty hard going for those urban areas in that context as well.”

Tate said his was one of the first homes in Waipukurau to be flooded.

There was “so much still do to” and “still a lot we don’t know”, he said.

“You will have heard the messages from everybody else: absolute caution, stay home . . . listen out to the key messaging, that’s kind of a really big thing for us that we’re continuing to promote.

“If people were safe at home and didn’t need to go anywhere, the ‘best thing to do is just stay there’, he said.

He called on people to check on their neighbours if able.

Rescues continuing

Posts on social media said a group of 42 people were trapped on a hill on Korokipo Rd in Omahu.

“The rescue helicopter will be taking them food and water this morning, I’m not sure of a rescue plan at this stage but the water has started to recede around them,” the post said.

The New Zealand Defence Force regular and reserve forces have helped rescue about 200 people in Esk Valley, Napier, and wider Hawke’s Bay. As of 8.40am the NZ Army teams overall have rescued about 200 people, with the number still climbing.

An Esk Valley, Hawke's Bay, resident is plucked to safety by Defence Force personnel in an NH90 helicopter. Photo / Defence Force

An Esk Valley, Hawke's Bay, resident is plucked to safety by Defence Force personnel in an NH90 helicopter. Photo / Defence Force

Three NH90 helicopters responded to the Hawke’s Bay area as part of a multi-agency response, with one of the tasks involving recovering people from the rooftops of their homes in Esk Valley.

Other tasks have involved moving about 60 to 100 people from Hastings, as well as moving medical supplies around the region.

NZDF released photos of people being plucked from rooftops in the region as floodwaters raged below, and carrying locals through swamped streets in boats.

Wairoa cut off

Wairoa is cut off on all sides today, with dramatic photos from Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence revealing the inundation of the town and the challenges facing its embattled residents.

Word came out via the Starlink system, a standalone wi-fi connection that is only accessible to the Emergency Operations Centre. Civil Defence says the rest of the Wairoa District is still without access to mobile and wi-fi connections.

Due to being completely cut off, Wairoa has only one day’s worth of food and enough drinking water for two days, Civil Defence said.

The Wairoa River has flooded up to a quarter of the town.

An RNZAF reconnaissance flight was to be sent, and Emergency Response minister Kieran McAnulty said Wairoa was particularly of concern.

Aerial view of flooding in Wairoa. Photo / Hawke's Bay Civil Defence

Aerial view of flooding in Wairoa. Photo / Hawke's Bay Civil Defence

Power, internet, phone coverage out

Thousands were left without power yesterday when a Transpower substation in Redclyffe was flooded. The company warned it could be days or even weeks before power was restored.

Yesterday afternoon they were able to restore some power to about 27,000 households across Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne, but it is insufficient to provide power to the rest.

Napier mayor Kirstin Wise said the latest information they’d received from Transpower was that electricity was “likely to be a number of days away.

“We’re communicating with them constantly to try and get some clarity around what that means,” she said.

Meanwhile communications were “incredibly patchy” and Wise said the primary source of information is the radio.

“Cellphone coverage and internet coverage is pretty much non-existent,” she said.

“That lack of communication is really dire and it does elevate everybody’s feelings of anxiousness.

“If I’m completely honest we’re actually feeling pretty isolated at the moment and yeah I have been discussing that with the team this morning about how we can start accessing these [state of national emergency] resources at a national level because we don’t have the resources on hand here to be able to do it alone.”

Spark said they had satellite units en route to Napier via helicopter and were dispatching an additional 10 generators.

“Communication will be limited to voice and text and congestion will occur – however the priority is to reconnect the region as quickly as possible,” Spark said.

Level five water restrictions in place

The “critical thing” about the power outage was that it affected water supplies and water treatment, meaning people are being asked to follow “level five water restrictions”.

Wise said this meant people should be having sponge baths instead of showers and only flush the toilet if absolutely necessary.

Level five is defined as water only being used for consumption or sanitary purposes.

Council warned on Facebook its water plants in Waipawa and Waipukurau would run out of water from 10pm yesterday and it could be several days before supply is restored.

 “This means you are going to need to collect bottled water and water for household activities like drinking, cooking and washing. This is going to be particularly challenging over the next few days for sanitary services,” the post said.

People can access water at:

  • Waipawa Municipal Theatre on Kenilworth St
  • Otane Hall
  • Racecourse Road Waipukurau, opposite GM Panelbeaters

Council has also issued a boil water notice for Otane, Waipawa and Waipukurau, which will continue for the foreseeable future.

Evacuations and where to go

Council issued an evacuation order this morning for Te Awa, Napier and expected to issue more for the surrounding suburbs.

Multiple suburbs were evacuated yesterday as flooded rivers poured over stopbanks and on to floodplains.

The suburb of Esk Valley suffered widespread flooding and required multiple rescues as people sought refuge on the roofs of their homes, with the water lapping barely centimetres below.

Many evacuation orders were lifted last night as floodwaters receded.

The Waikare River Bridge near Putorino collapsed in wild floodwaters caused by Cyclone Gabrielle. Photo / Rosie Tong

The Waikare River Bridge near Putorino collapsed in wild floodwaters caused by Cyclone Gabrielle. Photo / Rosie Tong

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said it was hard to believe the devastation to property and the roading network, including bridges. The council is dealing with an influx of people from flooded homes.

“We’ve got so many people displaced, so many people in our emergency centres and shelters. We are setting out two more emergency centres, people are flocking in from across our district.”

Evacuations centres can be found at:


  • Flaxmere Community Centre
  • Te Aranga Marae, Flaxmere
  • EFKS Church, Flaxmere
  • Cook Islands Centre, Flaxmere
  • Hawke’s Bay Environment Centre, Hastings
  • Waipatu Marae
  • Hastings Sports Centre (at capacity)
  • Ascend Global Church, Omahu (at capacity)


  • Rodney Green Events Centre, Latham St
  • St Joseph’s Māori Girls’ College (at capacity)
  • Pukemokimoki Marae (at capacity)

Central Hawke’s Bay

  • Centralines Stadium
  • Waipawa Municipal Theatre
  • Pōrangahau Hall
  • Tikokino Community Hall
  • Takapau Hall


  • Taiho Marae
  • Ruakituri Resident Hall
  • Wall Memorial Hall
  • Kahungunu Marae (Nuhaka)

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