Cyclone Gabrielle: Black Power member Denis O'Reilly says majority of people in Waiohiki have lost their homes

  • 17/02/2023

A Black Power member says the majority of people in his Hawke's Bay community lost their homes after they were submerged by rapidly rising floodwaters on Tuesday.

Lifetime Black Power member Denis O'Reilly told AM that residents in the rural Hasting community of Waiohiki have had their dreams and aspirations "flooded away" in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle.

The Waiohiki Bridge on the Tutaekuri River is one of at least six bridges in Hastings and Napier that have been washed away by the deluge.

The river diverted back to its old stream through Waiohiki, taking out people's homes in the process, he said. 

"[Waiohiki] means where the waters come up - and did they come up," O'Reilly told Ryan Bridge on AM. "Very ironic."

The water started spreading towards their house within minutes, O'Reilly said, noting about 30 of 35 new builds in the village are "pretty munted", with some houses "gone forever".

Less than a 10 minute drive west of Waiohiki, Dayna Nuku and her five children were forced to flee their Omahu home by driving through the rising flood waters.

"It was coming fast," Nuku told Bridge.

She bagged up some clothes, grabbed the kids and hopped in her dad's work truck while other members of her family followed, with her dad's "30-tonne digger" still attached to the back.

"I didn't want my kids to be scared, so my aim was to make it fun - 'it's alright, kids, it's alright' - like an adventure for them. This one was having the time of his life," she said, gesturing to one of her young children.

Everything in their house is either damaged or drifted away in the deluge, Nuku said. The family plan to return to their home over the coming days to assess the damage, but noted that the walls are still standing. 

Omahu resident Laura Andrews lives on a hill above where the floods hit. She has power, internet and water, so her home has become a place for the community to seek refuge or access the internet.  

"The devastation is more than you can imagine," Andrews told Melissa Chan-Green on AM. "I live here and I can't even understand or grasp their devastation yet, we need lots of support.

"It is really, really hard out there."

Watch the video above.