Wairoa remains cut-off with dwindling food and water supplies, while the palpable frustration of a farmer in Tolaga Bay spotlights the long-running and deadly problem of forestry waste, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.
Flooding and evacuations continue in Hawke’s Bay
While Cyclone Gabrielle now lies to the southeast of New Zealand with more settled weather ahead, rising flood water in Hawke’s Bay is prompting fresh calls for evacuation this morning. Flooding and inundation into Te Awa Estate is escalating and Civil Defence is urging people to evacuate. “We recommend evacuations to commence in the entire Te Awa Estates area, from Kenny Drive north to Hurunui Drive,” says Civil Defence. People are asked to evacuate to friends or family but if that’s not possible, go to Rodney Green Centennial Events Centre in Latham Street, Napier. If you are in danger, please call 111.
Wairoa still cut-off, with limited food and water supplies
A clearer picture is also emerging of the devastation caused in the area with aerial shots of Wairoa showing the extent of the flood damage. These extraordinary images from the Air Force show the lengths gone to to rescue people from rooftops. The 8000 residents of Wairoa are still cut off, with no phone service, only one day’s worth of food and enough drinking water for two days after the Wairoa River burst its banks. Power was restored to most residents last night but as the Hawkes Bay Civil Defence team explain, a post made on its Facebook page last night was only possible via Starlink, a satellite-enabled wifi connection that is only accessible to the Emergency Operations Centre.
“It’s one thing to get a cyclone and get water, it’s another when the water comes with bloody pine trees attached to it.”
North of Hawke’s Bay, in Tolaga Bay, the recurrent devastation caused by forestry waste (slash) was spotlighted again yesterday when farmer Bridget Parker spoke honestly and furiously about her family’s situation to RNZ. When asked if the government was going to do anything about the issue of forestry slash at last night’s press conference, the prime minister emphatically replied with a “Yes”. Shanti Mathias has an excellent explainer on The Spinoff this morning on what slash is, why it’s so dangerous and what can be done about a problem that was already linked to tragedy when a child died in Gisborne three weeks ago after being injured by a log floating in the water. Satellite imagery of Tolaga Bay captured between 2010 and 2016 shows the extent of the impact of forestry on the East Coast.
James Shaw decries lost decades spent bickering about climate change
The Spinoff article linked above was published in 2018 and written by Michael Smith. Smith wrote “the East Coast experience suggests that economic imperatives will always come to the fore unless the new forest gold rush is controlled by environmental rather than strictly economic imperatives.” In the House yesterday Green party co-leader James Shaw decried “the lost decades that we spent bickering and arguing about whether climate change was real or not”. While the focus is rightfully on the immediate response to Cyclone Gabrielle, the window of time between that and the need for expedient decisions on climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts feels very small.