April 13, 2024
By RNZ In Puketapu, west of Napier, the piles of silt no longer line the roadside six months after Cyclone Gabrielle. Green shoots and grass have taken over the mud as contractors’ heavy machinery rolls along the roads, but some still wait for the future in the midst of the rebuilding. There are signs of progress in Puketapu, such as the reopened pub. On February 14, Emma Tuck and her family clung to their roofs as floodwaters raged around them in the valley behind Dartmoor Rd. Their ceiling had been smashed and they had climbed up through it. In preparation […]

By RNZ

In Puketapu, west of Napier, the piles of silt no longer line the roadside six months after Cyclone Gabrielle.

Green shoots and grass have taken over the mud as contractors’ heavy machinery rolls along the roads, but some still wait for the future in the midst of the rebuilding.

There are signs of progress in Puketapu, such as the reopened pub.

On February 14, Emma Tuck and her family clung to their roofs as floodwaters raged around them in the valley behind Dartmoor Rd.

Their ceiling had been smashed and they had climbed up through it.

In preparation for a storm, Tuck and her mother Kerry Hamlin stayed in Hastings rather than in their property’s flat. They bought bottled water and secured plants and other wind-prone items.

In spite of this, they were not prepared for the ferocity that would follow.

Tuck, her partner, aunt, and four children were rescued by helicopter after a five-hour ordeal.

With time, my memory is bringing more back. So, early on, it was like, ‘This is what happened.’ Now I can get into more detail.

I still can’t believe we got up through that roof. We sat there praying for a helicopter to save us because we knew there was nowhere else to go.

The house is still ruined, red-stickered as unfit for habitation, and on land classified as category 3, meaning that it cannot be rebuilt.

Tuck said her bedroom used to be in it, but there is a gaping hole in its front.

Despite living in the seaside suburb Westshore, she still runs her business out of Dartmoor Rd, where they intend to return if its classification changes.

Westshore is my ‘now home’, but my kids keep asking, ‘When is Granddad going to fix our real home so that we can move into our real home’. That breaks my heart.”

A week after her rooftop ordeal, Tuck and her family were searching through the silt to salvage belongings.

Sadly, Hamlin’s flat was completely destroyed by the floods.

Hamlin found a container about 8 kilometers away that was battered and bruised, but I was able to salvage some clothes for my granddaughter’s 21st birthday.”

However, I haven’t found my bed, fridge, or anything like that – just a bracelet and a few perfume bottles.

For me, it’s like starting from scratch. Some days it hurts, some days it’s like, “Oh well, you can’t dwell on it.”

Also, she said she missed being around her grandchildren every day because of the long drive to see them.

Hamlin and Tuck reviewed their text messages from February 14 a few days ago.

When Tuck thought her time was up, she tried to assure her relatives that she was fine.

When it comes up, people ask me, ‘Did you really feel like you were over?’ Well, my children asked me, ‘Mum, can I hold your hand when you die?’ I replied, ‘Hold my hand.’

At that point, we thought we were gone. We had nowhere to go. This is us, but we’re together.”

Due to the force of the water, the family was concerned that large items, such as containers or logs, might smash into the house.

Tuck explained in February how they drew inspiration from daughter Bayleigh Takie, who died as a baby 12 years ago.

When the floodwater started climbing above the house’s guttering, they sang the song that reminded them of Bayleigh, You Are My Sunshine.

Despite her mood swings, Tuck said she was staying strong for her children.

Kayaks were used to rescue Olly Midgley and his wife from their house in Puketapu village.

Household items were drying out the back after the cyclone.

Midgley and his wife are still going through their belongings six months later to see what they can salvage and what must go.

They can rebuild on their land before they consider rebuilding a cottage on their property that was also damaged, and they hope to start soon.

The walls inside the house were stripped above the 1.9-metre mark.

Having lived in a camper van for five months, Midgley and his wife had now moved into a nearby apartment, but did not expect to stay there for long.

The builders could rush in here and chip away at it pretty quickly. Originally, we had thought it might take about one or two years.

A lot of work needed to be done in the backyard, where water had sat for a long period of time. Some trees were dead or dying, and the grass will need to be replanted.

The rental where they were staying could also be used for work.

“[We’re] cleaning stuff, tidying stuff – all the silverware and cutlery had been sitting outside for five months.

It’s only now that we have a place to deal with it – the water blasting process.

In the dishwasher, the silt doesn’t come off. You need to water blast it and polish each piece individually.”

There are more household items waiting to be sorted in Midgley’s garage now, but two vintage cars were stored there on February 14.

Both were submerged, but one was back on the road and the other was about to be fixed.

In Puketapu, Midgley’s prospects were brighter.

Today is a different day. We will be able to rebuild and stay here 100 percent,” he said, while expressing sympathy for those less fortunate.

Tuck, Hamlin, and their family lived in hope of returning home and being together again when something changed.

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