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HomeNew ZealandWarkworth residents say communication, preparation inadequate during flood alert

Warkworth residents say communication, preparation inadequate during flood alert

Sue Robertson from Rodney Neighbourhood Support stands beside a Defence Force Unimog at Warkworth Town Hall. She is coordinating activity at the Emergency Centre located at the town hall.

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Sue Robertson stands beside a Defence Force Unimog at Warkworth Town Hall.
Photo: Robin Martin/RNZ

Some locals in the northern Auckland town of Warkworth say they were caught completely unprepared by last Friday’s floods and communication was insufficient from local government.

However, officials say lessons were learnt and the response to Tuesday’s second deluge was much more coordinated.

Resident Gwen said she and many others had no idea what to do or where to go when the storm struck.

“The lack of publicity about somewhere to go for the people who were passing north and south through Warkworth who weren’t locals who didn’t know there was help advertised on the community pages.”

She said travellers from outside the area were given no warning before and no information after.

“People were unable to find out about it so there were people in cars with babies and dogs and people hadn’t had their medicine and we’re now talking two o’clock in the morning.”

Situated an hour north of the Auckland city centre, many residents feel disconnected from the super city and rely on community groups on social media for information.

Helga Moran agreed that Warkworth was let down by a lack of communication.

“My concern is no one knows. I only found out because I rung the fire station they said to go to Mahurangi school and not even on the Facebook page it didn’t say anything.”

Moran said the vulnerable were put at great risk.

“The thing is, I’m concerned with all the pensioners or anyone who has to evacuate, where do they go, there’s no notice is up here.”

Gwen said the emergency response was reliant on locals.

“They weren’t prepared. We don’t we don’t seem to have a civil defence emergency set up. We have got volunteer people here but they are the fire brigade and they were run off their feet.”

Warkworth fire chief Nick McLean said they were inundated.

“We were busy but the RSA and hall opened up and got beds and blankets and the community really rallied together and helped people out who were trapped due to floods and slips.”

Warkworth Community Resilience co-ordinator Sue Robertson said outside help was heavily impeded.

“Warkworth just became isolated, people couldn’t go north from here and they couldn’t go south from here.”

She said her team had a huge challenge trying to keep people safe.

“There were hundreds of people at the Grange and I just hit the the floor running and went there and just started helping people coordinating and we managed to house people off the buses.”

Robertson said council had responded well to the crisis and the communication had been constant with evacuation centres now established.

“If you do become displaced, dial 111 and 111 service will call FENZ out and FENZ will know now that there are all these places available to temporarily accommodate people and these emergencies.”

However, for some such as Gwen, it was too little too late.

“I’ve emailed the two local MPs, no reply. And I went to the MPs office this afternoon in town and the office was closed. You think it would be open? Because I’m an Aucklander I’ve come up here and I’m very conscious of that. I think it (the communication from council) is really poor.”

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