Whakatane remembers floods two years on
Saturday, April 6 marks two years since Tropical Cyclone Debbie caused widespread flooding in the Whakatāne District.
Worst hit was the township of Edgecumbe, where a breach of the Rangitāiki River stop bank flooded much of the town and saw the whole community evacuated.
Emergency services and Edgecumbe community members rapidly mobilised to help residents to evacuate safely and prevent the loss of lives.
Edgecumbe and other flood-impacted communities showed great spirit that day, and throughout the long recovery period that followed.
Barbara Dempsey, who served as the Whakatāne District Recovery Manager from late 2017 says community members have overcome many hardships to rebuild their lives.
“Over 98 percent of the flood-damaged homes have been repaired and reoccupied and thanks to the Eastern Bay Energy Trust’s contribution to home insulation, many homes are now warmer and healthier than they were previously,” she says.
“The recovery process was assisted by a wide range of local community groups, many volunteers and larger external organisations, which all had the same objective - to assist our flood-affected communities to recover.
“The Recovery Navigators also played a crucial role, helping people get the information and support services they needed to be able to rebuild their homes and their lives.”
To assist the Edgecumbe community’s transition from recovery to longer-term development, the Edgecumbe Collective (involving representation from approximately 12 local community groups and organisations) was formed in mid-2018.
The Collective has been responsible for developing the ‘Edgecumbe Community Plan’, assisted by Council-appointed Coordinator Vicky Richards.
Vicky says the significant achievements of the Edgecumbe Collective and the local community over the past few months have included:
- Establishing a town theme - Edgecumbe ‘Heart of the Rangitāiki Plains’;
- Developing and distributing the “Edgecumbe Collective Newsletter”, which has been supported by Whakatāne District Council and Bay of Plenty Regional Council;
- Working alongside Whakatāne District Council staff to establish the 4 Parks Management Plan;
- Working with the Regional Council to shape the development of ‘Papataonga’ - the green space named by red zone residents. The completed design for this reflective community space will be available for the community to consider in the coming weeks;
- Many community groups combining to hold a wide range of community activities and events.
Vicky says the second anniversary of the flood events is a good opportunity to stop and reflect upon how much the community has achieved over the last two years.
“Just imagine what we can achieve in the next two years.”