Cyclone Gabrielle response: Emergency Management says this is a 'massive event for NZ'


Tairāwhiti Civil Defence has made contact with 90 percent of its communities and expects to reach the final 10 percent by the end of today, the head of Emergency Management has said at the government's latest update.

Government officials have briefed media on the latest developments on the Cyclone Gabrielle response.

The media event is being addressed by Emergency Management acting director Roger Ball, police deputy commissioner Glenn Dunbier, and Fire and Emergency spokesperson Paul Turner.

Ball said Tairāwhiti Civil Defence have made contact with 90 percent of its communities and that he expected to make contact with 100 percent of communities by the end of today.

"As an example of how they're doing that, a volunteer support officer is driving up from Te Puia Springs, making contact with volunteer brigades along the coast to check on them and see what they need.

"In Whatatutu the community there would be receiving visits from two helicopters today with supplies, including for the people sheltering in the school there, and I understand three other communities in Tairāwhiti will also be visited by helicopters today."

He spoke to the civil management group in Hawke's Bay today, who will also be making reaching isolated rural communities a priority.

By the end of today they will have completed rapid assessments of the entire district of Wairoa, he said.

He said getting fuel into Wairoa had been a priority.

"BP has informed us that they'll be getting fuel hopefully into Wairoa today by vehicle now that the northern road is passable to essential supplies."

Ball said 90 percent of cell towers in Hawke's Bay were operating, with 80 percent working in Northland.

"Only 30 percent were operating in Gisborne, but this will improve significantly once Chorus fibre is repaired, hopefully by the end of this weekend."

About 24 percent of households in Napier now had electricity.

"Just before 7am today, the Gisborne water plant kicked back in. This is thanks to specialist crews who worked all night to install a replacement unit that had been delivered late yesterday by a C130 Hercules."

He paid tribute to the efforts of first responders and volunteers, iwi groups, agencies and public contractors.

"In my experience this is a massive event for New Zealand. It's the biggest damage from a weather event that I've seen and this is going to be a major focus for New Zealand and for the responding agencies for some time.

"One of our biggest priorities is making contact with isolated communities and then getting supplies to them urgently."

But Ball said authorities had received concerning reports of some people being aggressive and threatening people delivering essential supplies.

Balls said while he understood the stress that many people will be going through, it was essential those providing critical services could do their job without anyone hassling them.

He called for monetary donations to further help those in need. There were many relief funds to give to, as opposed to physical donations, which on many occasions did not much what was needed.

He said 700 members of the Defence Force were out on the ground currently. Four aircraft, seven helicopters, two ships and 58 trucks were being deployed in relief operations.

Police deputy commissioner Glenn Dunbier said there had been 4928 reports of people being uncontactable, at at 9pm yesterday.

Dunbier said 885 people have registered themselves as safe.

He said a team of about 100 personnel are working to match up the reports and he encouraged people to update their report if they have made contact with their loved one.

Dunbier confirmed nine people have been confirmed dead - seven in the eastern district, and two in Muriwai, Auckland.

This morning police announced a body had been found in the Hawke's Bay region in the aftermath of the cyclone.

Civil Defence is keeping a close eye on the high landslide risk in Piha and Muriwai today.

About 20 homes were evacuated in Piha due to land instability, and an exclusion zone is in place for a large part of Muriwai.

There are early signs of recovery in cyclone-ravaged Gisborne and Hawke's Bay, but the full picture of the scale of the damage is still emerging.

Tairawhiti Emergency Management said State Highway 2 between Opotiki and Wairoa was open during daylight hours.