Cyclone Gabrielle: Tensions escalate in Hawke's Bay as thieves and looters target vulnerable

Six days on from the gut punch of Cyclone Gabrielle, tensions are escalating in Hawke's Bay.

We've heard first-hand accounts of people witnessing the theft of food and nappies given to hard-hit communities.

Others say generators and prized possessions are being taken from flood-damaged homes.

And it didn't take us long to find people who are angry and scared.

Pōhutukawa Drive is a road already ransacked by Cyclone Gabrielle but now they have another foe to face thieves.

"The vulnerable are now getting their stuff stolen. The gangs are coming in, or looters in general. They're threatening people, stealing their stuff. We are very scared, people are very scared," said Napier local Grant Porter.

Generators, fuel, food, belongings - there are reports it's all being targeted.

"Low-lives are just coming out trying to steal the food that's been dropped off, filming the streets so they can come back later and take generators, and quad bikes and whatever has survived. It breaks my heart," added checkpoint organiser Bryony Lovett.

Ashbelle Wyatt is there helping people she doesn't even know. She says her Onekawa house was targeted earlier in the week.

"At night time a ute pulled up outside our house, faces and number plates covered. What were they trying to do? Obviously steal from houses that had been evacuated."

There's a palpable fear that gangs such as the Mongrel Mob are taking advantage of this disaster.

"We were petrified. We didn't know what to do because we didn't have service."

Ra Kupa, a nurse, only just survived the neck-deep flood water in her house.

"Ben, our saviour neighbour, came and broke the door off and said, 'Hang onto the sofa'. We floated with the sofa with the dog on the sofa across to his fence line. If it wasn't for him, we'd be gone," she said.

And she's saddened supplies given to her community to get through this hell have been stolen.

"We're going through this whole trauma and people are taking the donated food and clothing that has been left for us. Mankind can be pretty unkind to each other," she added.

So locals there have set up their own roadblocks. Volunteer Nick Wall says it's appalling they even need to.

"It's despicable taking advantage of people at their highest time of need, at their lowest," he told Newshub.

He knows fronting the roadblocks could be dangerous.

"We were warned about threats and maybe people with firearms trying to get through roadblocks so that's why there's three of us, not one," he said.

And there are plans to barricade the road at night with concrete blocks.

While Newshub was there a vehicle that was told to turn around blasted on through the checkpoint, so they called the police. Tensions are running high with the reports of looting and here's another reason why. At the next checkpoint just down the road, a traffic management worker who can't speak on camera told Newshub he had a gun pulled on him by people in a vehicle refusing to stop.

"We need the military police. You can't have a couple of poor young teenagers at a checkpoint and the Mob or whoever it is saying, 'You don't let us through, we'll kill you'. That's not on," Lovett said.

The Police Minister had no idea how bad it was until Newshub told him this afternoon.

"Completely and totally unacceptable by the gangs," Stuart Nash said.

"Get your bloody patches off, go and get a whole lot of wheelbarrows and shovels and start helping people instead of adding to already super-high levels of stress."

He's ruling out curfews but prepared to bolster the extra 100 officers who've already been brought in.

"Whatever the District Commander needs to keep law and order, all she's got to do is ask but I need to get to the bottom of this. It's the first time I've heard it," he said.

And within two hours, this from the police.

"They're deploying every day. This morning I requested further road policing staff," said Eastern District Commander Superintendent Jeanette Park.

And back at the Eskdale roadblock, police did arrive quickly and were able to move the suspicious vehicle on.

One situation resolved but this is a community still very much on edge.