Northland picks up pieces after storm

There are concerns that some Northland areas may run out of water later today, as the region begins to pick up the pieces following this week's severe storms.

Heavy rain and driving winds caused slips, closed roads, burst river banks and claimed one life in Northland yesterday, while about a dozen families took refuge in a welfare centre last night.

Thousands of residents have begun the clean-up operation today as fine weather finally broke through into clear skies and sunshine after a week of wild weather.

However, there are concerns the public water supply in the Paihia, Haruru Falls and Opua areas may run dry by later this afternoon.

The Far North District Council has issued an urgent call to all residents and visitor accommodation premises in those areas to conserve water until further notice.

The heavy siltation at the councils Waitangi River water supply intake has seriously restricted the treatment plant's capacity to process water and the reservoirs servicing the area are running low, Northland Civil Defence said.

"Contractors are working to restore the treatment plant to full capacity, but the council warns unless the communities in the area do everything possible to conserve water the supply could fail by mid-afternoon today.

"Water tankers have been placed on standby to bring treated water in from other areas as a contingency measure, but obviously will not be able to meet the normal level of demand."

Council building inspectors were also going door-to-door in the Moerewa area to monitor sanitation and other issues created by rising flood waters and septic tanks. Flooding in the town yesterday forced a number of families from their homes, and they spent a night in a welfare centre.

Portable toilets and extra rubbish bins were due to be delivered to the area today, while firefighters were also set to help with localised pumping.

Local residents had shown "remarkable resilience", Graeme MacDonald, spokesman for the Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Group, said.

Stoic locals, while understandably frustrated by the effects of the storm, were taking matters in their stride and looking after each other, he said.

Around 30 farms in Whangarei district's Hikurangi Swamp area, have been badly hit by flooding, with some reporting up to 80 per cent of their property inundated.

This morning around 570 customers were still without power, Top Energy said. It was dealing with issues in areas including Rangiputa, north and south Hokianga, small areas around Opua and Peria and at Te Kao.

Most customers would have their electricity restored today, the company said.

Northpower said it was planning to use a chopper to lift a wire to a top of the Brynderwyn Hills, south of Whangarei today, which should enable the restoration of mains power to celltowers which had been operating on generators.

Many roads in the region remain closed or affected by flooding, slips or other storm-related damage.


- Anyone with a flooded home, or who urgently needs accommodation, food, heating, clothing or medical supplies should phone Far North District Council's freephone 0800 920 029.

- The Whangarei District Council has a similar service for those needing help in its district; 0800 932 463.

- Updates and more information can be found on the Northland Civil Defence Facebook page: www.facebook.com/civildefencenorthland and the Northland Regional Council's website www.nrc.govt.nz/civildefence


- By Patrice Dougan of APNZ

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