While life has somewhat returned to normal for many parts of urban Hastings following Cyclone Gabrielle, it is still anything but for those communities on the outer reaches of the city and in rural areas across the district.
From the beginning of the response, co-ordinated by Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management, Hastings District Council, in conjunction with other emergency management agencies, has been focused on these areas and as the emergency extends into its third week, the approach continues to get more co-ordinated.
Across the 5,000 sq/km Hastings district, at least 10 rural communities have become isolated due to road and/or bridge damage, some without power, and within those just over 20 further isolated pockets of residents have been identified to date.
These areas include but not limited to: Rissington, Patoka, Dartmoor, Puketitiri, Te Pōhue, Te Haroto, Putorino, Kaiwaka, Tutira and Waikoau. Each of these now has a recovery hub that is run by members of the community.
Hastings District Council is working closely with Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence to ensure the needs of these communities are met and all essential supplies are delivered.
This involves the families in these areas making their requests to the recovery hub, which feeds the information on to Council, which then liaises with Civil Defence to arrange the delivery of supplies – this may be via helicopter, Unimog or other means.
The situation is constantly changing, as contact is made with communities who have not been reached as yet, or responses tailed back as needs change.
Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said Council teams were working with our rural communities to meet their needs, particularly opening access and fuel for generators.
“The situation is very changeable and every day everyone is working hard together to support our people.
“The rural community is doing an outstanding job of coordinating efforts on the ground and we are working hard to establish access and get them reconnected.”
Hastings District Council emergency response controller Craig Cameron said the number one priority for Council’s roading teams was to establish access to isolated communities.
“There have been up to 100 road crews working on any particular day with over 1000 people out there on the ground, working on our roads.”
This included building a Bailey bridge in Rissington, with the aim to be operational as soon as possible, and other temporary access solutions across the district.
New bridges were also being designed, alongside restoring the lifeline roads to enable incoming traffic from outside the region to further support the recovery effort.
“We are very aware that those who are isolated are wanting time frames on when repairs or new access routes can be completed.
“While it is still early in the response, we are prioritising areas that have a lot of people impacted, where there are known engineering challenges and where we can support the recovery of our primary industry.”
He noted that the contractors involved in the response were also dealing with the impact of the event in their own lives, including losing their own homes.
“An event of this scale impacts everyone and it’s going to take careful planning and time to fully recover.”
HDC roading teams were also working with Waka Kotahi and neighbouring networks Rangitikei, Central Hawke’s Bay and Napier to cater for inter-regional traffic.
Communication links into the rural communities had been established through Council’s Rural Community Board, the members of which were being contacted daily to ascertain the needs of their communities as well as being kept up to date with the work of the Council teams.
Community board deputy chairperson Isabelle Crawshaw said isolated communities such as where she lived at Patoka were still predominantly in an emergency response phase.
“Communities are solely reliant on helicopters and the army to get supplies in to keep our whānau safe out here.
“In the wider Patoka community, we still have daily struggles with fuel and farm supplies but the community spirit remains strong and we are working alongside all of the response organisations based in Hastings to ensure the community continues to receive what we need for the time we remain isolated."
If people need health and wellbeing support, including mental health, accommodation needs, ongoing food, household goods and services support, animal welfare and rural support, a new helpline has been established - 0800 117 672.
2 March 2023
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