Weather: Edgecumbe reopens as more heavy rain looms

More residents from the flood-hit Bay of Plenty town of Edgecumbe are preparing to return to their homes.

Whakatāne District Council says people from about 130 properties in north Edgecumbe - from College Rd north of Rata Ave - will be allowed back at 8am on Tuesday.

Wastewaste services, water and power are due to be operating in the area.

On Monday, the police cordon put in place after 1600 people fled the town on Thursday was lifted for the first time.

It meant residents from about 46 properties in the southeastern section of Edgecumbe started reoccupying their homes.

But Edgecumbe College's netball court and rugby field still look more like a lake.

"It was way worse than I thought it was going to be," Edgecumbe College principal Louw Olivier says.

"There will be some financial implications, we know that, but at this stage the major thing for us is getting kids into classes as soon as possible."

Students have been welcomed in Kawerau's Tarawera College. Tarawera Head Boy Iraia Nuku is making room for his old mate, and Edgecumbe Head Boy, Rongo Kohai.

"That's something Kawerau's always good for - welcoming people in, something that our school definitely enjoys," Iraia says. 

Whakatāne District Council says it aims in the coming days to reopen further areas that have not been subject to flooding.

But Cyclone Cook, which hit New Caledonia on Monday with winds up to 200km/h, is forecast to gather strength and hit New Zealand later in the week. 

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley, who is in charge of overseeing Government assistance for Edgecumbe, says shoring up the stopbank is a priority.

"They're working on it continually but they're not 100 percent confident it can stand up to the heavy rain forecast for later this week," she said.

Mr English said the full extent of the damage wouldn't be known until the water level dropped, but he gave an assurance the government could foot whatever bills were coming up.

"We don't want to be shelling out billions for natural disasters but when they happen, we can pay," he said.