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Tararua in a State of Emergency

Tararua remains in the grip of a State of Emergency, with Cyclone Gabrielle continuing to bear down on the district.

Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis declared a State of Emergency at 8.49am yesterday as the cyclone began to lash the region and river levels rose in earnest.

She said it would be in force for at least 24 hours, and be reviewed as required.

Mere hours later, the district was incorporated into the National State of Emergency declared by Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty.

Tararua District Council [TDC] said the escalation meant the district would have access to additional resources and assistance, including the New Zealand Defence Force.

“This declaration will enable Central Government to support our district, provide additional resources as needed and help set the priorities across the country for the response.”

The council said the decision to be included in the National State of Emergency was not taken lightly.

It said the current extreme weather was a one-in-50-year event, with most of the rivers the highest they had been since recordings began in 2004.

Waihi River’s previous record of 4.2 metres was smashed yesterday, reaching 7.5m in height.

Collis said the district was bracing for the storm to peak at 6pm, and said it had suffered significant roading damage and extensive slips.

She said 16 people had been evacuated from the coastal settlement of Akitio, where the chief fire officer was sheltering in a community hall with evacuees
and a civil defence radio.

“The rivers out toward the coast rose very very quickly. Akitio is at risk with road access. It’s just not there.”

She said communities in Owahanga and Pongarao had also been cut off, and urged anyone near coastal rivers to move to high ground and spread the evacuation message.

“We are concerned around digital and telephone connectivity, if you’re beside a coastal river, you must and are advised to move to higher ground.”

Collis said most people were out of harm’s way, with some in rural communities sheltering in wool sheds or at their neighbours.

She said the region currently had 300 power outages and expected high winds and flooding to increase in intensity.

“Herbertville campground is currently underwater, and we’re having to pull our roading teams off the network, because it’s starting to get dangerous.”

She said the phones would be staffed overnight, and a skeleton roading crew would be made available.

Collis said close to 500 outreach calls were planned for today in affected areas.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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