Auckland flooding: Water continues to rise in Onehunga as cleanup begins

As of Saturday there are 253 houses red-stickered - meaning they're unsafe - and people are banned from entering. There are 1351 houses yellow-stickered, meaning they have restricted entry.

And the water in Onehunga is also rising instead of subsiding.

He thought he'd dodged a bullet on Friday but Paul Young's problem was bubbling underneath only to emerge two days later.

"Correct and it's coming from the table, the water table underneath us," Young said.

He owns a 75-year-old car bumper business in Auckland's Onehunga.

"The water table from the records I've kept is about half a metre higher than it was 25 years ago," Young said

The water flows up through the concrete floor faster than it can be pumped out. 

"We're on tenterhooks here, we've just got to keep on keeping on," Young said.

Water in one of Young's wells rose up another 20 millilitres on Saturday.

"It's just risen two-and-a-half, three metres," he said.

Young's been spending his waking hours monitoring water levels and said he's hanging on by a thread.

"Just heart-wrenching and the authorities are taking another two weeks," he said.

"We don't see any action. We need to get the water table down - and council and Watercare has got to be helping us."

Young said it's the same problem across Onehunga. His neighbour Paul Shaw's fighting his own losing battle. 

"It's saturated. It's just running through it. We've tried to go and get more but everything's sold out, everything's out of stock," Shaw said.

Shaw can't run his powder-coating business with orders piling up by the thousand.

"We got through COVID, we will get through this. I'm just trying not to let down my customers," Shaw said.

The basement of a community theatre is also not in the best shape.

Part of the problem is that many of the traditionally water-thirsty businesses around there have closed or moved away. 

One of the water treatment plants there was pumping out 24 million litres a day from the Onehunga aquifer. It stopped four months ago and Onehunga residents are convinced that's why the water table is rising so rapidly.

Watercare sent a statement that said the plant was taken offline because it didn't meet drinking water standards. And even if it had been in service it would have been too dirty to keep online. Plus they couldn't put the water into the wastewater network as it's already inundated with groundwater infiltration. 

"Whilst it will take some time to get back to sort of normal groundwater levels the peak levels which are causing some of these springs should subside reasonably quickly," Auckland Emergency Management said in a press conference on Saturday.

But most other problems in the city stem from the floods last Friday.

In Parnell, businesses remain shuttered because of the floods.

In Mangere's Tongan heartland, volunteers have helped pile up rubbish outside stickered homes. They're also helping people who don't know what the stickers mean to get evacuated.

"Because it's your home you live your life in your house and you no longer can't be there, so it's really difficult for people," one volunteer told Newshub.

But while most are community-minded, some are not. Authorities said to be on guard for scammers posing as officials, scoping properties.

"In the vein of insurance or assessing a property for damage just to check that they have the right identification for the work that they're proposing that they're going to do," Auckland Emergency Management said.

But life may be finally returning to normal even in homes where the water was chest-high.

"It just kept on coming and coming and that's when we started moving our cars up the road and all the cars out and then it just kept on coming and coming," Sandeep Prasad told Newshub.

Prasad and his family are back in their white-stickered home, among thousands who've shown resilience in the face of disaster.