Cyclone Gabrielle: Fears repairs in north Auckland won't get done if wet weather continues

By Mohammad Alafeshat RNZ

Rural residents in North Auckland are facing a monumentous challenge ahead following Cyclone Gabrielle.

Arborists are busy across the Rodney District, responding to hundreds of tree-related and clean up-callouts. Auckland Council said the large majority of them were critical.

Parts of the region was swamped by the initial flooding in January, and was hit again by Cyclone Gabrielle.

Rodney board member Mark Dennis said rural communities were struggling with downed trees and power shortages, with people in Kaipara Flats, South Head and Puhoi still without connectivity.

"A lot of the roads were covered in fully matured pines just straight across the road, which meant that none could get in or out until locals actually went out and cut the trees to allow for at least one lane through."

Dennis said the extent and range of damage to land and infrastructure was astounding.

"Being able to see the true level of devastation from the sky gave me a clear picture of how long this recovery is going to take.

"We are concerned about the long-term damage, the anxiety and stress that these rural farmers are carrying"

"We're at the end of summer now and things are potentially going to get wetter, and if we don't get any dry weather a lot of these repairs won't take place till next summer."

While the weather has settled this week, the effects of Cyclone Gabrielle are still being felt, particularly in isolated communities.

Ahuroa Road is a 15km country road between Puhoi and Makarau, with farms, forestry, businesses and a school.

The storm damaged a 750m stretch of the road, which remains closed while engineers investigate a volatile and dangerous slip. The closure point starts on the western side of the J Tolhopf Road turnoff, 8km west of Puhoi.

Ahuroa School principal Terry Taylor said three of the five teachers have to travel an additional 54km to get to school.

"We've got about 10 or 20 children who were doing a 20-minute trip to school and they're now doing an hour, so it makes a massive difference to their day. It's chaotic."

He said he still cannot communicate with three families registered at the school.