Cyclone Gabrielle: Central Hawke's Bay, Gisborne in 'water crisis' with pleas for residents to urgently conserve water

Communities along the east coast of the motu hammered by Cyclone Gabrielle are in the midst of a water crisis. 

The mayors of Central Hawke's Bay and Gisborne are pleading with residents to urgently conserve water after Cyclone Gabrielle destroyed the regions' water networks.

Central Hawke's Bay mayor Alex Walker told Newshub Waipukurau, Waipawa and Otane's water sources are "severely compromised and our reservoirs overnight have completely depleted".

"So those three towns are completely out of their network of drinking water, which means not just drinking water but flushing toilets and sanitary services are also quite compromised."

Alex said tankers are providing limited drinking water at the moment, but added it "is critical that people are conserving water".

"It's fairly obvious when you turn on the tap and there's no water, but we have to look after it very carefully," Alex said. 

"This adds to the levels of critical lifelines which are severely comprised here."

Where Central Hawke's Bay residents can get water 

  • Waipukurau - Racecourse Rd opposite GM Panelbeaters
  • Waipawa fire station 
  • Otane Hall 

The Central Hawke's Bay mayor told AM Cyclone Gabrielle was "bigger than [Cyclone] Bolar". 

"Everything is so wet, slips, people cut off, evacuations. Our rivers breaching their banks. We've had everything in the 24 hours."

Gisborne mayor Rehette Stoltz declared a "water crisis" in her region and made a desperate plea to her residents on AM. 

"We need every single person in Gisborne to conserve water, we have a water crisis where our water pipes are broken in several areas."

Soltz said while the region's reservoir is full and a supplementary treatment plant is running too the supply isn't enough. 

"The reservoirs are full but we can't fill them again."

She said the supplementary treatment plant would only produce a quarter of the water the region needs. 

"We need every single person to conserve water."

Soltz urged Gisborne residents to only use the water to drink, prepare food and have a "very quick shower". 

"We need everyone to be mindful to use as little as possible water. It will take us months for us to fix this problem."

Tairāwhiti civil defence controller Ben Green warns if water isn't saved "your taps will run dry for days.

Green's full statement:

"We have multiple breaks in the water pipe supplying Gisborne city, with severe damage to the main water treatment pipe," he said. 

"Our water supply is now assessed as critical and we are dealing with this as a significant crisis. We need to use less than a quarter of the amount of water usually used on a day in February, otherwise, there is a real risk that the city will have no water."

The city water supply should only be used for drinking, food preparation and hygiene. The severe restrictions remain in place, meaning no outdoor use of the city's water. 

Turn off irrigation systems, don't clean your car and don't even think about hosing down your driveway or using a water blaster. This applies to industry as well as residents.

"We know many of you have sections that need cleaning up but please don't use our precious water supply for this," said Green. 

"We are working on options to make untreated water available to people whose properties have been flooded and need to clean up the silt."

"With all this rain there is plenty of water in the Mangapoike Dams but no way to get it 40kms to the Waingake Water Treatment Plant through the severely damaged pipe. 

"The pipe has multiple breaks in it and there is no quick fix. The only treated water the city has now is the very limited amount left in the reservoir and a small volume being treated at the Waipaoa plant.

"Industry throughout the district was contacted yesterday (Tuesday, February 14) and advised of the situation. 

"We are going to the city's high water users to underline just how critical this is for Gisborne and to ask them to turn off their water use for now. We will evaluate the situation as our emergency supply system is activated."

There are lots of ways everyone can conserve water.

"Delay doing laundry until necessary and limit the use of your dishwasher. We cannot treat enough water through Waipaoa so your actions matter," said Green.

"Short showers, no baths, and check for leaks. Fix dripping taps and running toilet cisterns. If you see any public leaks, please report these to the Council."