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Risks revealed by Cyclone Gabrielle

Cyclone Gabrielle has highlighted the risks Wairarapa is exposed to in severe weather events, a local council committee has heard.

Damage to roading and fences, crop losses, and the particular issues faced by isolated rural communities were among a raft of challenges the cyclone had caused.

A report tabled yesterday [23 August] at the South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] Climate Change and Environment committee described the impacts of the February cyclone on the region, as well as what resilience lessons were learned.

The report said Cyclone Gabrielle, and similar recent high-intensity weather events, had exposed the vulnerability of critical regional infrastructure like the local road network.

“The trauma of being flooded or nearly flooded, being isolated or left cleaning up damaged property, sorting repairs, fixing fences, losing crops, and negotiating insurance are severely testing the resilience of these communities and creating growing unease about living with the realities of climate change,” it said.

“It is important for those of us not impacted by this event to be mindful that it could take many more months, if not years in some cases, for some affected residents and businesses to fully recover, throughout which they will need varying levels of continued support.”

The report said the event is an opportunity to build future resilience, and the establishment of a recovery office is an example of progress.

The Wairarapa Recovery Office is a combined effort between Masterton District Council, Carterton District Council, and SWDC, supported by Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office.

It has recently employed a recovery programme manager and engages with stakeholders like iwi, the East Coast Rural Support Trust, Federated Farmers, and Ministry of Primary Industries.

The office has helped assess and distribute central government funding through the mayoral relief fund and from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment [MBIE].

The Mayoral Fund has had 38 successful applications, with total funds distributed of $269,454. MBIE had 13 successful applications with total funds distributed of $250,000.

Future resilience-related projects the office is working on include community mental health initiatives, roading resilience, aerial reconnaissance, the continuation of fencing and infrastructure repair programmes, riparian planting, and delivery of programs designed to support vulnerable communities to better understand their options during times of stress.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air


  1. Isn’t it funny how the term ‘isolated rural communities’ has become scary. 100 years ago residents of such places would give two hoots because they were all self sufficient. Nowadays; if one doesn’t have immediate access to a supermarket and the internet one feels under threat. So many of us have no idea how to survive by ourselves. It’s alarming and quite sad.

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