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Flood of relief

The New Zealand Defence Force [NZDF] has come to Wairarapa to help cut-off communities.

The Wairarapa Emergency Operations Centre [EOC] said NZDF has deployed a Unimog truck, 19 defence force personnel, and a four-wheel drive vehicle.

EOC said food and supplies were sent yesterday to rural communities cut off by Cyclone Gabrielle.

EOC controller Steve May said the Defence Force and Upper Hutt Community Rescue had been to Tinui and arrived in Castlepoint at 4pm yesterday.

He said the seaside town of 150 residents had requested supplies and water for two days.

Generators for cell towers were helicoptered into the wider rural area on Wednesday to restore cell phone coverage.

Wellington Free Ambulance delivered essential medications yesterday afternoon, and power and cellular services have been restored to Castlepoint, EOC said.

Rural Support Trust Wairarapa, which is working with EOC, said access to Castlepoint was still limited to emergency vehicles.

It said the Upper Hutt Community Rescue team would also be based at Tinui Hall and door-knocking in the Mangapakeha and Langdale area to check welfare needs.

Carterton District Council said EOC confirmed that it was in communication with communities impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle rural Carterton and South Wairarapa, through Rural Support. “There is currently a Fire and Emergency [Fenz] unit out at Te Kopi in Gladstone conducting a primary survey of the area as we are aware it was quite flooded yesterday.”

As of yesterday afternoon, EOC was talking with Upper Hutt Community Rescue about sending a response team to impacted areas in rural Carterton today.

Additionally, Fenz had taken a four-wheel drive to Flat Point for reconnaissance, while also trying to get through Hinakura towards Pahaoa.

The rural trust said work was progressing on opening road access to Pahaoa, but if it was not achieved by late yesterday afternoon, chopper delivery of essential supplies might be available.

“Road crews in Masterton are aiming to have single lane access out to the coast, up Annadale and to Mataikona.”

May said EOC was asking people to be patient and check council websites for more roading information – or keep their ear on the radio if they have no internet or phone coverage.

“Although there are a number of road closures and slips, they are being cleared as fast as possible, and we understand most communities have some form of connection to the outside world.”

May said council roading and water teams were working extremely hard to re-open the roads.

There was a risk of further slips coming down, and asked residents to check in on neighbours who might be vulnerable, he said.

He said EOC was looking to forming a mobile one-stop shop with the likes of the Ministry of Social Development.

Neither NZDF nor EOC could confirm how long the defence force would be in Wairarapa, or what their missions were.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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