Cyclone Gabrielle: Te Karaka community devastated by death of John Coates in flooding

There was no shortage of boots on the ground today in Te Karaka as volunteers started clearing out the mud that enveloped the tiny township.

The community has lost one of its own - 64-year-old John Coates. His son describes him as "a good ole bugger" - a community man who was well-respected by the town and who loved it right back.

John Coates was a third-generation farmer in Te Karaka. Playing for the local rugby club, he was well-known around town. And he loved his home.

"There's good people living in the area. I think a lot of it's probably hereditary, our family roots if you like to put it that way. It's not a bad place to live, it's a good place to live!" he said way back in 2013.

On Monday we went to visit John's son Guy. The pair lived side-by-side down the same road.

Guy didn't want to speak on camera but told us on the night of the storm he said to his dad to meet him up the drive by the mailbox. When he got there, John wasn't there.

Guy said he never stopped trying to rescue his dad, when he went back he just couldn't find him. When he did, it was too late, so he waited with his dad until the flood waters had receded and he could bring him out.

"We were all a bit devastated at the loss of one of our community members, and I think we're all still trying to move through those motions as well, but yeah. We know that things are going to get better," said Waikahu Civil Defence's Nicky-Marie Kohere-Smiler.

Today there were almost more diggers in Te Karaka than residents, as well as locals getting to work to start shifting the mud. There were also plenty of helpers who'd travelled out from Gisborne like Trevor Hawkins.

"I just know how people appreciate it," he said.

"It's been quite humbling really because of the amount of people that we don't know who have just turned up," added Te Karaka resident Kent Ansell.

Fourty-four Te Karaka properties are yellow-stickered. This community might have been struck badly, but just as John said: "There's good people live in the area."

And that's why his son Guy says John will be brought back here to be laid to rest.