Cyclone Gabrielle: Many Aucklanders still can't return to homes because it's too risky

In Auckland, many people still cannot return to their homes in Muriwai and Piha, almost a week after Cyclone Gabrielle hit, and water supplies are patchy in some places.

Most building assessments needed in Muriwai, Piha and Karekare had been completed, but some homes were still too risky to enter, Auckland Emergency Management (AEM) said.

But where possible, staff hoped to support people to briefly re-enter red stickered homes.

"The instability of the land around evacuated streets is a significant safety concern," Auckland Emergency Management duty controller Adam Maggs said.

"We need to carefully plan how we can enable people to access their homes to collect belongings and important items ... in a way that ensures [their] safety

"The last thing we want is people putting themselves at risk, and we ask friends, whānau and the wider community to continue to wrap support around those who are currently unable to return home."

Entry into some areas of Muriwai was restricted to those with authorisation from AEM. Domain Crescent was still fully closed (except a few white placarded homes at the beginning of the street), and those hoping to re-enter homes in a closed section of Motutara Road would need to request access and be accompanied for visits of no more than 30 minutes.

The Muriwai water treatment plant remained broken and the reservoir was empty. An emergency tanker had been stationed at the Sand Dunz Beach Cafe and would be provided until mains water was back on.

Maggs said an alternative water supply plan was being worked on for Muriwai, that could be in action by 24 February.

In Piha, water was still being pumped out from the Garden Road area, which was expected to continue for up to 48 hours. There was limited some foot access to Rayner Road, but subsidence meant it could not be used during the dark or after heavy rain. An alternative access up a private driveway in Rayner Road was being organised to allow access to another 12 homes in the street, so they could be changed from red stickered to white stickered.

Tankers were available for people to collect up to 20L of water per person a day from opposite the United North Piha Lifeguard Service on North Piha Road and at the entrance to the Piha Domain on Seaview Road.

A slip in South Piha.
A slip in South Piha. Photo credit: RNZ / Rowan Quinn

Meanwhile 2000 customers were still without power across Whangārei and Kaipara.

Police were patrolling around the clock in the affected communities, Maggs said.

"We appreciate it is very difficult to be away from your homes, and unable to access your properties - it is a very unsettling and stressful time," he said.

Since the Auckland floods on 27 January the council had carried out 6750 rapid building assessments.

Civil Defence payments

Aucklanders affected by the cyclone could be eligible for a Civil Defence payment to help with emergency food, clothing, bedding, costs from being displaced from home or loss of income for those unable to work.

The payments from the Ministry of Social Development would not be assessed based on a person's income, and could also be made to organisations like marae, community groups or individuals who were housing anyone who had evacuated.

People whose insurance could cover the same costs are also allowed to use the Civil Defence payment as a bridging payment, but have to pay it back if they receive an insurance payments for the same thing.

Red, yellow and white stickers - what they mean

Auckland Emergency Management said all red stickered buildings were unsafe, and no-one was allowed to go inside them (both buildings in and outside of security cordons) without organising an accompanied visit with Auckland Emergency Management.

Yellow stickers meant there were concerns about the building's safety, and restricted or temporary access could be allowed.

White stickers meant there could be minor damage at the property but it was safe to enter and live in.

Alerts from the National Emergency Management Agency for 19 February

  • Keep up to date with advice from your local CDEM Group or from

  • Floodwaters may be full of sewage, chemicals and other hazardous materials and should be avoided as much as possible

  • Floodwater can carry bacteria that can contaminate food

  • Protect yourself when cleaning up flood water and mud by wearing a properly fitted P2- or N95-rated mask, goggles, gloves, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, and gumboots or work shoes

  • Throw away all food and drinking water that has come in contact with floodwater

  • Do not eat garden produce if the soil has been flooded

  • In power outages use torches instead of candles, and only use camp cookers and BBQs outdoors.

  • Conserve water where you are advised to

  • Check the location of pipes and cables before you dig; see Chorus' Before You Dig website and for all utilities

  • The best way to assist in the response is through financial donations and NOT through donated goods.