Civil Defence, MetService monitoring low’s approach
Northland’s Civil Defence officials and the MetService are continuing to keep a close watch today as a low expected to bring some weekend rain to eastern parts of the region draws closer.
Graeme MacDonald, spokesman for the Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Group, says at this stage initial MetService forecasts still suggest 30-50mm of rain could fall on Northland tomorrow and into early Sunday, although more could fall in some localised areas.
Normally, that amount of rain would not trigger any action by the MetService, however, given the sodden region is still drying out after last week's storm, it had yesterday issued a precautionary weather watch.
Mr MacDonald says little has changed since the original watch was issued yesterday and any rain is likely to fall on eastern areas from Kaeo through to Whangarei over the day tomorrow, before moving south in the evening/overnight.
"At this stage, while it's understandable some people might be a bit nervous after last week, there's still no undue cause for alarm and the best advice from the MetService remains for people to keep up to date with the latest weather forecasts."
Meanwhile, Mr MacDonald says the region continues to make good progress in its post storm recovery, including the scheduled reopening at 8pm today of a crucial slip-affected section of State Highway One, south of Kawakawa.
He says the scheduled reopening comes after a Herculean effort from roading authorities who have been working 24/7 to bypass the slip and the availability of the route again will alleviate much of the current pressure Northland's wider roading network has been under since the storm.
Officials report the sealed 100-metre long, two-lane detour will be open to all traffic, with a 30 kmh speed limit and will be controlled by traffic lights. They say it will also have to be temporarily reduced to a single lane at times for necessary maintenance work and the installation of a guard rail.
Mr MacDonald says on the welfare front local district councils, Ministry of Social Development and other agencies continue to visit affected areas and are now starting to turn their attention to people who might not have come forward and selflessly put others' needs before their own until now.
"Again, anyone whose home is flooded or who urgently needs accommodation, food, heating, clothing or medical supplies to contact their local council in the first instance."
"In the Far North, they can call the Far North District Council on 0800 920 029, the Whangarei District Council number is 0800 932 463 and in Kaipara, people should call their council on 0800 727 059."
Mr MacDonald says as the recovery progresses officials – both locally and a central government level – continue to be impressed by the way Northlanders are dealing with the storm and its aftermath.
"Northlanders can be very proud of the stoicism, patience, public-spiritedness and willingness to work together the vast majority have shown so far and continue to demonstrate on a daily basis."
Mr MacDonald says as well as good support from within the Northland community, including the establishment of separate Mayoral Relief Funds in both the Far North and Whangarei Districts, the region continued to well-supported in various ways by central government.
That support continued today with an announcement by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett that she was activating Enhanced Taskforce Green (ETFG) to help with the clean-up efforts. (ETFG is a temporary employment programme administered by the Ministry of Social Development to help regions recover from adverse events.)
Mrs Bennett says at this stage up to $200,000 would be made available for ETFG which would cover three clean-up teams working for up to three months.
Mr MacDonald says the Northland Regional Council will co-ordinate the deployment of the teams in Northland and there was already a long list of farmers and other worthy recipients of the aid it would be able to deliver.
Locally, both the Far North and Whangarei mayoral funds are designed to help people from their respective districts who can apply for grants of up to $1000 to repair homes, replace damaged property or meet costs incurred as a result of the storm. (Both will give priority to those unsuccessful in getting financial help from other agencies, including Work and Income and insurance providers and say grants above $1000 may be awarded to people experiencing extreme hardship.)
Both councils are also inviting donations to their funds; the Far North through any ASB Bank branch or council service centre and Whangarei through any BNZ branch, at its Customer Services in Forum North or direct to the following bank account with the reference Mayoral Relief Fund: Whangarei District Council - BNZ 02-0492-00358315-000. More information on the funds (including application forms) is available through www.fndc.govt.nz and www.wdc.govt.nz
Mr MacDonald says general recovery and other storm-related information continues to be posted online as required, including on the Northland CDEM Group's Facebook page – www.facebook.com/civildefencenorthland and the Northland Regional Council's website www.nrc.govt.nz/civildefence
Information about local district council road and State Highway closures/issues in Northland is available from the Automobile Association website via www.AAroadwatch.co.nz or the NZTA website www.nzta.govt.nz
Northpower and Top Energy remain keen for all faults to be reported to them. Top Energy's fault line number is 0800 867 363 and Northpower's 0800 10 40 40.