Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Plenty of cleanup still to do

Three months on from Cyclone Gabrielle, many of our roads, bridges, riverbanks, homes, farms, businesses and most of all, our people in the Tararua District are still facing big challenges.

The council’s initial focus was on making sure we were in touch with impacted communities and that they had at least some access in and out. Most of the 2342 faults or issues in our roading network have now been checked and sorted into categories. We have 100 in the highly complex category, which will require significant design and engineering to repair, 453 in the medium complexity and 1515 in low complexity. There are still 274 slips yet to be categorised, but they are considered low complexity as well.

Among the issues with our roads are a number of “dropouts” where parts of the road or shoulder have slipped away, and bridges with structural issues.

We have set up a Recovery Team with local people leading the different recovery areas – Social, Economic, Rural, Natural/Environmental, and Built [roads/buildings etc]. We’ve just appointed former Ruapehu District Mayor Don Cameron to be our Response Manager. Don has a wealth of experience in significant events like this and has moved back into our district.

The team and I have been out in the community meeting with people, holding “town hall” style barbecue lunches with presentations, and using our networks to try and understand what people are facing. But we know there’s a lot of folk who won’t say anything. They will point to neighbours in the district, or in neighbouring districts, who are far worse off. We are not a demonstrative community, and for some, they don’t feel they can ask for help.

If ever there was a time to make sure you let us know if things are not right, it’s now.

We’ve just started an Impact Assessment Survey [www.tararuadc.govt.nz/recovery], which we want as many of our ratepayers and residents as possible to fill in. High survey numbers will mean we are getting an accurate picture of the size of the challenges ahead for us and our people. And we will share that with our colleagues in Wellington, who are there to back our recovery efforts.

At this stage before we get the survey results, we have estimated at least 200 farms in our area have been affected. Farmers and their whanau and neighbours are now having to work very long hours to put up replacement fences, clear tracks, fix internal infrastructure such as bridges, yards etc, as well as normal stock work.

The pressure is on to ensure this work is done before winter sets in, and the flow-on effect on families is that they hardly see each other while these repairs and cleanups are undertaken.

An “On Farm Clean-Up” team has been set up, and using volunteers from many neighbouring districts as well as farmers and non-farmers coming from all over Tararua to help, they have been able to continue to get the clean-up work done.

This work has been going on for the past three months. However, volunteer fatigue sets in after some weeks, and people must return to normal lives. If anyone has the time and energy to assist, we still have jobs to do – particularly if you have on-farm experience. Contact the Rural Support Trust to offer help – 0800 787 254.

In the meantime, if you know anyone who needs support, direct them to our Mayoral Relief Fund [www.tararuadc.govt.nz/mayoralfund], or they can contact our Social Recovery Lead Toni Chapman [[email protected]] or Rural Recovery Lead Jane Tylee [also the Tararua Coordinator for the Rural Support Trust, [email protected]].

We really appreciate all the work put into recovering our district – by staff, contractors, volunteers, visitors – and all the support shown from people donating time and money. We have a massive few years ahead of us as we try and solve cyclone-related issues.

If you know someone in our district, reach out and check if they’re okay. Now is the time to really look after each other.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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