It’s been a really tough few weeks for communities across the region. Cyclone Gabrielle is the most significant weather event New Zealand has seen this century. The severity and the breadth of the damage hasn’t been experienced in a generation, and I know the events have taken a huge toll on many New Zealanders.
Over the past weeks I connected and worked with the local Civil Defence and Community organised Emergency centres across the region and was impressed with the way people from all walks of life came together and pitched in to help clear properties inundated by the floods. The flooding experienced in many of our communities (some for the second time in 18 months), means that a lot of work and assistance will be needed to rebuild local businesses, to help families that have had their homes damaged and to restore businesses and livelihoods.
We’ve seen whānau, friends and neighbours pulling together to keep each other safe, warm and fed. The resilience and community spirit shown by everyone has been remarkable, but I know there’s still a long road ahead for many, especially those who live in Muriwai.
My thoughts go out to the family, friends and colleagues of the volunteer firefighters who lost their lives in Muriwai during Cyclone Gabrielle. They were protecting their community and the lives of others, leaving their own homes and loved ones to do so.
Our volunteer firefighters play an incredibly vital role in our communities. They provide critical frontline response and support to us through some of our hardest times, as we have seen first-hand during this devastating cyclone.
My aroha goes to all who have been impacted by the cyclone. The loss of life and destruction is heartbreaking.
As we recover from the cyclone and flooding, it is obvious that Auckland needs to review its ability to respond to such serious disasters and climate events and recognise the impact of climate change as well as the need to build and maintain our water infrastructure to cope with the demands such changes cause.
This was only the third time in our history, that the Government declared a National State of Emergency. This enabled us to support the affected regions, provide additional resources as they are needed, and help set the priorities across the country for the response. Government has provided a $11.5 million community support package to provide immediate relief for individuals, families and households as well as putting in place funding to help farmers, growers and rural communities mobilise and co-ordinate recovery efforts from the cyclone. The Prime Minister also announced other major steps towards recovery from the cyclone, with a further $50m support for business and farming sectors, a quarter of a billion dollars towards road repairs and new structures that will direct and coordinate the recovery.
While emergency response teams worked as hard as they could to get communications back online, it has been an anxious time for a lot of us. I experienced it first-hand too, as my family were 11 days without power, water and phone coverage before we got reconnected. I’m grateful to all who have worked tirelessly to help out and, seeing the great community spirit and co-operation, I know we will get through this.