Isolated Hawke's Bay community of Tangoio faces rebuild after flood overwhelmed whenua

Newshub has reached one of the most isolated disaster-hit communities north of Napier.

The people of Tangoio live near an impassable section of State Highway 2, which has cut off access to Wairoa.

It's not only homes that were destroyed - but the local marae too.

Tiny hands in Tongoio are helping to restore the mana of their ancestors urupa. Their whare, built by Hōri Reti's elders, is a place no one can gather right now.

"They worked really hard to do this, and the materials, all of the traditional materials, are hard to come by," said Tangoio Marae Trust chairman Hōri Reti.

This is his people's spiritual home - generations of history etched inside four walls. The sleeping quarters and other buildings were all flattened by the storm.

"Devastated. That's our grandparents, our great-grandparents, they built this for us," said Reti.

This area's survived floods before. But the waters which rose from the willow-lined Tengarue River overwhelmed and obliterated the whenua.

"We will rebuild. We are just grateful we haven't lost any of our whanau in this part," Reti said.

Reti took refuge in his container home when the water hit.

"Like trains going either side of you. That's what that was. The blessing of it all was we couldn't see anything as it was pitch black - we've got no lighting out here."

His cousin, Matua Hoani Taurima, said his sheep woke him up as the water washed inside his home.

"You can see how high the water got inside the house."

It went two metres high - ruining a lifetime of belongings. 

"It's tough, but I'm just grateful to be here. There's plenty who aren't. Just happy to be alive," Taurima added.

This community has been largely isolated the past few days - but a break in the weather has seen flood waters recede and on Saturday help arrived as the Army brought in generators and fuel.

"We've got food, Army ration packs, we've got water, diesel and petrol," said Sergeant Andrew McCrory, from the Napier Army Reserves.

A much-needed morale boost so they can focus on what's next. The priorities are rebuilding homes and recovering precious taonga -  the tukutuku panels, and the carvings inside a marae that is now unsafe.

Kaumatua Jo Taylor was part of the carving team. The site was built with multiple fundraisers over many years.

"Devastated, devastated. It'll be hard to recover. This place goes back a long, long time," Taylor told Newshub.

Hard to recover - but certainly not impossible. The flag went up once more today - they wanted whanau to know "we're still here".