If I thought 2022 was a difficult year for families and businesses, it pales in comparison to the start of 2023.
In my first column, I thought I’d be acknowledging a change in Prime Minister, my new portfolio and new Select Committee position.
But that fades into oblivion in the wake of what has happened to those living in the North Island, especially the battered northern and eastern regions.
Following last year’s wet winter, spring and start to summer, the continued downpours were already leaving their mark on the landscape before we were hit with cyclones Hale and Gabrielle bringing more rain as well as gale-force winds.
The sheer amount of water that fell and the destruction that followed especially in Auckland, Northland, the Coromandel, East Coast and Hawke’s Bay has been life-changing for so many.
One scientist has calculated the Esk Valley in Hawke’s Bay received enough rain to fill 72 Olympic swimming pools every minute, for six hours, during the height of Cyclone Gabrielle.
Subsequent rain has only added to the catastrophic results.
Overall, the Taranaki/King Country region was very lucky to escape such devastation, with the Waipā district suffering more wind than water, and rural Taranaki faring well considering what was going on elsewhere.
The exception was the Waitomo district where a state of emergency was called on January 25 in the aftermath on Cyclone Hale.
In Te Kūiti, the Mangaokewa Stream burst its banks flooding low-lying properties in the east of town, while power was cut for up to 24 hours. Evacuees were cared for by the people of Te Kūiti Pā and I want to thank the whānau there for moving quickly to welcome them.
Ōtorohanga suffered some flooding due to rising Waipā River levels, while farming communities had paddocks under water, stock isolated, silage and crop damage.
Waitomo Caves Village and Marokopa were among those communities cut off by water and slips throughout the district’s roading network. The clean-up of those, plus state highways also affected by slips, trees and surface damage continues.
Through this there has been the great co-operation between local mayors, council staff, lines company, roading and Civil Defence teams. I want to applaud for them for the very long days, nights and work in very stressful, trying conditions.
Last, but never least, are the volunteer emergency services, especially our local fire brigades. When trying to get through days and nights with howling winds, pouring rain and rising water, it’s to these amazing people we turn to, to help pull us through.
Thank you all so much!
THE YEAR AHEAD
In January I received the Conservation portfolio. Conservation involves us all and is across every industry, so I’m excited about the work to come.
As a new Environment Select Committee member, I’ve spent the first weeks of 2023 hearing submissions on Natural and Built Environment Bill and Spatial Planning Bill.
These are two of three bills drafted by the Government to replace the Resource Management Act. The Climate Adaptation Bill is yet to be introduced.
Listening to these submissions, while we are seeing the regional destruction on our daily news feeds, has me concentrating on ‘where’ and ‘how’ we need to build in the future.
To those who have lost loved ones, homes, livelihoods, animals, treasured mementoes, my heart goes out to you for the toll it’s taken.
My hope is that in true Kiwi spirit, while we may be bruised, we are not broken.
For the return to some semblance of normal will take years.
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