East coast school principal says anxiety growing after latest flooding brings back memories of Cyclone Gabrielle

The impacts of the latest wild weather on the east coast of the North Island are starting to emerge, with a local principal saying it's bringing back memories of the devastating Cyclone Gabrielle.

The east coast has been hammered by heavy rain overnight, with MetService reporting nearly 130mm of rainfall up to 6am on Wednesday.   

This has seen evacuation centres set up, schools closed, State Highways shut, and people removed from their homes out of caution.  

One school that is shut on Wednesday is Nuhaka School near Wairoa, with the principal describing it as a "rough night".  

Footage sent to Newshub by the school, taken on Wednesday morning, shows the playground and school flooded.  

East coast school principal says anxiety growing after latest flooding brings back memories of Cyclone Gabrielle
Photo credit: Supplied

Nuhaka School principal Raelene McFarlane told AM on Wednesday the rain started late on Tuesday evening and was "pretty heavy" overnight.    

"What's really hard is it's exactly what happened at Gabrielle, so the water table is so high that nothing can escape at the moment... but to see this again, it really does hurt. It just sort of brings it all back, if that makes sense," she said. 

Nuhaka School was forced to move out of its complex after Cyclone Gabrielle devastated the region earlier this year. The school has moved into a chapel that belongs to the local Jesus Christ Church of Latter-Day Saints.   

She told AM the education ministry is backing Nuhaka School and helping them obtain a new building: but if that does happen, McFarlane said it will come with mixed emotions.   

"Here today is a hard one, it's not just a building, it's 100 years of history and love and whānau that have come through those buildings and to see her keep getting hurt is really had to take on board for everyone," she said.  

The east coast of the North Island has been batted by wild weather this year, which has devastated communities and destroyed infrastructure.   

McFarlane told AM every time there is heavy rain, the community is on edge - particularly young children.   

"Our first thought is, 'oh no, not again'. Everyone's wondering how much, how fast and whether the roads will be open the next day. We have really fragile infrastructure at the moment around our region and it's not quite recovered," she said.   

"We have kids who will come up to us and say, 'Did you hear the rain? I was really worried', and the heavier it gets and the longer it lasts, everyone's anxiety just keeps growing with it."  

And with every wild weather event that hits the region, the anxiety continues to grow for locals.  

"We have a big river that runs through Wairoa and Nuhaka and we're always a little bit worried about what's coming next for us," she said.  

"It's not like it used to be, you used to sort of fall asleep listening to the rain and it was quite lovely, and now we hear the rain and we are like, 'oh no'." 

Watch the full interview with Raelene McFarlane in the video above.