Auckland flooding: Uninsured flatmates' lucky escape before floodwaters reach ceiling

By Leonard Powell of RNZ

A low-lying area in the central Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn is in tatters following last Friday night's flooding.

Near the northern end of Grey Lynn Park, residents were piling rubbish on the footpath as they rummaged through their belongings to see what could be saved and what needed to go.

The quaint, affluent suburb dips and rises across several hills and valleys, and its low-lying properties stood no chance against the unprecedented rain.

RNZ met David Playle at the top of his driveway on Cockburn Street. He was in the process of removing everything from his flat, which had become uninhabitable.

"Where we are living, apparently it was an awa, it was a river. It used to go from Coxs Bay all the way to Crummer Road. So every time there's rain, I'm out here checking these drains, making sure they're not blocked."

Playle lifted up a trapdoor built into the deck, exposing a large stormwater drain running through the property.

Council inspectors came over to check on the drain on Friday before the flooding hit, but once the rain started pouring, the drain began overflowing.

"It's the main drain, this is the awa. If there's any blockages, this water starts rising up here.

"Within three minutes the water was up to our knees in the house. We were trying to retrieve as much as we could, the fridges and the bench started floating, the water got up to my chest."

Playle said it was lucky the flooding did not happen in the middle of the night, as the water got all the way within half a metre from the ceiling.

Outside, the front lawn was strewn with all six flatmates' destroyed belongings. Soaked mattresses, broken appliances and piles of soggy clothes.

Some of the flatmates' possessions.
Some of the flatmates' possessions. Photo credit: RNZ / Leonard Powell

Playle salvaged some of his partner's things, even cramming a heavy chest of drawers into the ceiling cavity, but only reached for one item of his own, precious photos of his whānau.

The community response has had a huge impact on Playle, who said he had felt something coming before the flood, even sharing a message about his premonition on his neighbour's fence.

"It's been amazing. It's like the old Aotearoa that I remember in the 80s. Everyone in the community was just absolutely outstanding."

Playle and his five flatmates were looking for a new whare to live in, and had a give-a-little fundraising page titled "hakanoa underwater" set up to help the tenants get back on their feet. None of them were insured.