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Clean-ups nationwide after rain, flooding and tornado

The landslide that sliced through SH25A in the Coromandel, pictured on 2 Febuary 2023 after more land slipped down the hillside.

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The landslide that sliced through SH25A in the Coromandel, pictured on 2 Febuary.
Photo: RNZ / Libby Kirkby-McLeod

Several slips have been cleared off coastal roads in Coromandel after the recent devastating flooding.

But it will take much longer to repair State Highway 25A, where 70m of the road has been completely washed away.

Several homes have been evacuated at the small settlement of Koputauaki due to risk from a dam formed from debris.

And further south, Greymouth is dealing with the aftermath of a tornado that hit the West Coast town’s school swimming pool.

Reprieve from rainfall

“The sun is shining,” Thames-Coromandel mayor Len Salt told RNZ’s Morning Report on Tuesday morning, more than a week from some of the heaviest rain ever recorded in the upper North Island.

Most of the peninsula’s roads have since reopened, including southeastern access through Waihi, Salt said.

“The only road closures we’ve got at the moment, full road closures, are SH25A and the Tapu Coroglen Road, which is a secondary gravel road from Tapu on the west coast, across to Coroglen – comes out right by the pub there – on the east coast.

“Apart from that, we’re in pretty good shape.”

He went for a drive up the coast on Monday, taking in Thames and Koputauaki to the north, to check on the newly formed ‘debris dam’.

Salt said farmland slumped under the heavy weight of the rain, dragging debris and soil down into a gully.

“You’ve got some trees and bits of vegetation which have built up and blocked that, and you’ve got a build-up of water behind it. As that water builds up and we start to get more rain events, there’s concern that might let go and cause a real danger to people living below.”

Eleven houses at risk were evacuated. Helicopters armed with monsoon buckets scooped up excess water, dumping it on the dam to erode it so the water could be released slowly into the Waiwhango River.

Staff from Fire and Emergency, police, the local council and Civil Defence oversaw the operation.

“The are other plans, if we establish that today’s course of action ultimately does not reduce the volume of water sufficiently, to ensure the safety of the community,” said Civil Defence controller Julian Snowball.

“Our team are not entirely happy that we’ve got all the water out that we want to,” Salt said, “so they’re working through a couple more options over the next day or so to clear that completely so it doesn’t cause a problem.”

Part of SH25A to Coromandel collapses

Photo: Waka Kotahi

There remain severe drops on the damaged SH25A, which Salt looked at on Thursday last week with Emergency Response Minister Kieran McAnulty.

Salt said it was an impressive sight.

“Imagine standing at the edge of our version of the Grand Canyon and looking down. It was pretty impressive – it’s a long way down, a lot of material and vegetation.”

Health fears

Meanwhile in Auckland, which took the brunt of the rain, there are now 274 red-stickered properties, and more than 1500 yellow.

More than 2000 damaged and abandoned cars have been removed from the city’s roads, and there are about 200 skip bins available for the public to dump debris in.

Ten days on, there are still some streets littered with piles of destroyed belongings.

“Certainly the removal of waste can become a health issue, Auckland Emergency Management deputy controller Rachel Kelleher told Morning Report.

“The most important thing is that it’s brought out of the house in the first place – that we’re not leaving wet, sodden household furnishings, equipment, wall linings inside houses… our next priority is to remove them from properties.”

She said “good progress” was being made clearing all the rubbish, but there are limits on just how many bins are available, as well as staff with the skills to operate the machinery involved in emptying and returning them.

She said people could be arranging for more urgent removal through their insurers.

“This event has reached far and wide across the full extent of Auckland, and getting around everywhere is going to take us some time. We do just ask that people are patient.”

‘Bit of a fright’

Greymouth needed some rain, with residents urged to keep use to a minimum and a ban on sprinklers in place. But they did not need the tornado that came with Monday’s downpour.

It shot through the West Coast town about 1am and “gave residents a bit of a fright”, Grey District Mayor Tania Gibson told Morning Report on Tuesday.

“Everyone at least is safe – that was the main thing.”

One family has been forced out of their home while their roof gets repaired. The roof of Cobden School’s swimming pool was damaged, but the school itself remains open.

“We certainly seem to have them every now and then,” Gibson said of tornadoes.

One that hit the town in 2005 destroyed several businesses and homes, and injured several people. NIWA says the town is one of the most tornado-prone in the country.

“Thankfully this was quite a small one compared to one of the ones we had some time ago that ripped through town and caused substantial damage. But it is that time of year.”

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