Welfare strong focus in ongoing post-storm recovery
Northlanders – especially those in flood-struck areas like Moerewa – continue to show remarkable resilience as the region works to return to normality in the wake of this week’s storm, Civil Defence officials say.
Graeme MacDonald, spokesman for the Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Group, says as the recovery phase of the storm moves into its second day, welfare and infrastructural matters remain the key focus.
Mr MacDonald says in and around Moerewa, where floodwaters had forced a number of families from their homes, stoic locals – while understandably frustrated by the effects of the storm – were taking matters in their stride and looking after each other, aided by official support.
The latter included a welfare centre which had been working out of the Te Punawai Trust Christian Centre (the old tavern on the corner of the Main Rd and Marshall St) opposite the BP Station. It had closed this morning, but if required would reopen.
Far North District Council (FNDC) building inspectors were also door-knocking in the area monitoring sanitation and other issues caused by flood-related problems with septic tanks. The council was arranging for portable toilets and extra rubbish bins to be delivered to the area today.
Firefighters were also hoping to assist today with localised pumping – and depending on the availability of freshwater – washing out some flood-affected homes.
Mr MacDonald says anyone in the Far North whose home is flooded or who urgently needs accommodation, food, heating, clothing or medical supplies should phone Far North District Council's freephone 0800 920 029. (The Whangarei District Council has a similar service for those needing help in its district; 0800 932 463.)
Meanwhile, he says infrastructurally, the FNDC also had some concerns about the public water supply in the Paihia, Haruru Falls and Opua areas and today issued an urgent call to all residents and visitor accommodation premises there to conserve water until further notice.
The council says heavy siltation at its Waitangi River water supply intake has seriously restricted the treatment plant's capacity to process water and the reservoirs servicing the area are running low.
Contractors are working to restore the treatment plant to full capacity but the council warns unless the communities in the area do everything possible to conserve water the supply could fail by mid-afternoon today.
The council says water tankers have been placed on standby to bring treated water in from other areas as a contingency measure, but obviously will not be able to meet the normal level of demand.
On the electricity front, Mr MacDonald says both Top Energy and Northpower had done remarkably well at restoring electricity to the thousands of customers the storm had affected. Overnight, Top Energy reported it still had about 570 customers without power and it still had some issues at areas including Rangiputa, north and south Hokianga, small areas around Opua and Peria and at Te Kao.
However, despite site access problems caused by steep and muddy terrain, the company was hoping to have most customers restored today.
Northpower too today reported good progress, with all of its major feeders restored. It was planning to use a chopper to lift a wire to a top of the Brynderwyn Hills, south of Whangarei today, which should enable the restoration of mains power to celltowers which had been operating on generators.
Mr MacDonald says the situation on the region's roads continues to change constantly and number of spots along the State Highway network – including a major slip south of Kawakawa – continued to be closed or affected by flooding, slips or other storm-related damage and roading.
It was a similar story along the local roading network, however, officials were working hard to assess damage and find alternate routes whenever possible.
Mr MacDonald says while some rain is forecast tomorrow night, it is not expected to cause any new problems and the forecast for the next week was for fine weather.
However, in parts of the region, high tides are still affecting flood-swollen rivers and could also cause fresh roading issues in some spots.
He says 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
Those sites contain maps and brief description of closed/affected roads and an indication of when the issue/s involved is likely to be resolved.
"However, as mentioned earlier, it's important to realise that things are constantly changing on the roading front and despite everyone's best intentions it's difficult to have accurate, up-to-the-minute details on all closures/issues."
He says the Rural Support Trust is working with flood-effected farmers, including those in the Whangarei District's Hikurangi Swamp area, where reportedly 30 farms have been affected by flooding, some which have up to 80 percent of their property inundated.
And on the health front, officials had worked today to arrange the transport – by air if necessary – of two renal patients from the Far North who required treatment.
Mr MacDonald says recovery and other storm-related information will also continue to be posted 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