The Detail‘s Sharon Brettkelly heads to Titirangi in west Auckland, where the damage from last Friday’s record-breaking rainfall is so bad some residents don’t know when they’ll be able to get back into their homes.
This started as a podcast about what happened when flood waters surrounded my home on Friday night.
It’s the fourth time in 12 months torrential rain has turned our neighbourhood into a pond for water gushing down from higher, surrounding streets. Out on the road, the water was waist-deep in places.
This is the worst we’ve seen it – the area is a former swamp that was drained about a century ago for development, and now we’re paying for it.
But as the disaster unfolded and the clean-up began, it was clear that people were in much more devastating circumstances in many pockets of Auckland.
I joined Waitākere councillor Shane Henderson as he checked on residents in Paturoa Road, in Titirangi, in Auckland’s west.
They’d been without power and water for days: their road blocked at one end by a massive toppled kauri, with a house teetering on the edge of the slip above; and other homes on this steep bush-clad street also in peril.
But at the other end of the road was a much bigger problem.
As we passed the fire truck parked next to the road closed sign and turned the corner, a gaping hole exposed huge timber piles that had formed a retaining wall.
The road had been gouged out by torrents of water on Friday, leaving a sheer, dangerous drop to the beach below and cutting off the driveway to a neighbouring property.
Stunned residents were out and about, sharing stories, wheeling boxes and suitcases along the road to their cars. They were getting more stuff out of their homes in case they couldn’t get back in anytime soon.
Some said that the fire truck at the end of the road was the first they’d seen or heard from any emergency agency (except the emergency alert text on Sunday) and that was three days after the rain had started to pour.
One resident who drove over the road just before it collapsed said there had been no communication.
“We get it second hand. We just keep running down here as soon as we hear vehicles or something, trying to ask people what’s going to happen,” he said.
“There’s gotta be some way you can get communication to flow a bit quicker because you’re just in the dark here. You hear cracking in the night, you think oh that’s another slip, what’s going on.”
I met Brenda Donges, a security worker who was back checking on her flat and her neighbours. She was packing up her clothes and food and “getting out before the rain comes”. She was worried if she didn’t get out now she would be trapped by more slips.
I went with Brenda down a steep, slippery driveway to a neighbour’s home perilously close to a fallen tree, but the occupants had moved already.
We walked up the winding road where a small crowd was gathering to watch men with chainsaws cutting into the giant kauri blocking the way. Chains were wrapped around the tree and hooked to an earth mover, while behind it lines workers were in a cherry picker reconnecting the power.
It was a dangerous and delicate job, a worker told me.
“If anything goes wrong that tree can come down and squash whoever’s down there. We take baby steps.”
Within hours the kauri was cleared away, but it’s hard to imagine when or how the gaping hole in the road will be fixed.
To hear more about the damage on Paturoa Road in Titirangi, check out the full episode of the podcast.
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