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Constable Chris Harding wades through flood waters in Māngere on January 27. Photo: Sergeant Andrew Warne.

Ben Bergin says finding a new home in Auckland is like competing in The Hunger Games. He is among thousands desperate to find somewhere to live in the city.

One time too many

For Detective Senior Sergeant Ben, wife Emma (a former 111 call-taker) and their four young children the storm that hit Auckland, Northland, Bay of Plenty and Coromandel on January 27 was déjà vu. On that fateful night, their Swanson home and precious possessions succumbed to flooding for the second time in 18 months.

They had only finished fully renovating the house six months earlier after what they were told was a one-in-100-year flood. “This time, they’re saying it’s either a 200 or 500-year flood,” Ben says.

When they returned in January “it was just like take two”. The water had reached well over waist height in the garage and was knee-deep throughout the house. Among the irreplaceable things ruined by floodwater were the children’s Plunket books and progress portfolios from kindergarten.

For now, they are staying at Emma’s mother’s house until they find a home to rent.

Newlywed to homeless

Constable William Turner had a lot to celebrate before his Epsom home was inundated by floodwaters. He graduated from Police College on December 15, got married on January 14, and had just returned from his honeymoon.

Then, on the night of January 27, while William was chest deep in water helping people flee their homes in West Auckland, he received a text from his new wife, Zoe, saying their flat was completely flooded.

In the space of 40 minutes, the water rose more than a metre and was coming up through the floorboards. The carpet was raised and all the beds were floating.

Friends who live near the six flatmates came to help save what they could but among the items washed away were Zoe’s wedding dress and William’s suit.

“We found them a couple of days later, wet and covered in mould. We've done what we can to save them but it's looking like [the dress] is not retrievable.”

The couple have moved to William’s parents while they begin the “super hard” hunt for a new home.


Banding together on the East Coast

Tairāwhiti has been blasted by severe weather for weeks – storms in January, Cyclone Hale and Cyclone Gabrielle, but rural response manager Senior Sergeant Danny Kirk says most of the region is just thankful it hasn’t been worse.

“The Gisborne and East Coast regions were not as significantly affected as Wairoa and Hawke's Bay. We had one death here in Te Karaka where several houses are impacted whereas they’ve had several deaths in Hawke's Bay.

“So, we’re just thankful that we didn't see that widespread devastation.”

However, Tairāwhiti did not go unscathed. ”There are a lot of homeowners whose houses have been significantly affected as well,” Danny says.

“One of our staff member’s Gisborne house was flooded and the police station in Tokomaru Bay is effectively cut off apart from access through a farm track from Ruatoria. We are flying relief staff in and out of those East Coast police stations by helicopter on a weekly basis,” Danny says.

“Inland from Gisborne, Manutūkē is one of our one-person stations. Rob Dench, who's the cop there, put in a lot of hard work and long hours, particularly dealing with the road that goes from his settlement straight up to Waingake, which is where the main source of water supply for Gisborne city is. All along that road the water pipe is damaged, but also the Te Arai River flooded and so families along that road needed to be evacuated.”

Danny says some families kept an eye on the river and evacuated pre-emptively but others who stayed at home reported the rivers came up very quickly.

“We were talking about it the other day. When the MetService issue warnings and they say this amount of rain may cause flash flooding and rivers to rise ‘rapidly’, you sometimes think about that as ‘rapidly’ being over the course of several hours. But in some places, it was literally minutes,” Danny says.

He says there’s been a huge amount of police work to be done in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle.

“Despite that, morale remains high and staff have put in some really long hours. It's been really impressive to see how they just all band together, get in and do the work without complaining. They do it for their colleagues and for their community.”

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