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Cyclone Gabrielle impacts

The impacts of the cyclone were considerable, on people, our community, infrastructure, and the environment. See below for a summary of the most significant impacts of the cyclone on Hawke’s Bay.

What was the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle?

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC) rainfall figures show that Cyclone Gabrielle was one of the most significant weather events to impact the region on record. The cyclone delivered staggering amounts of rain over a relatively short period of time, and data indicates this was the largest rainfall event at a number of sites ever recorded in the region.

The impacts of Cyclone Gabrielle have been significant and widespread, and they will be felt across our region and communities for a long time to come.  The amount of rainfall coming through the region’s rivers was much larger than the system was designed and constructed for, this has left Hawke’s Bay with some long-term effects.

Extensive flooding due to rapidly rising rivers lead to extensive and widespread flooding across the region.  Hawke’s Bay sadly experienced a loss of human life as well as the loss of many animals caught up in the swift flowing flood waters. Many other people were trapped on their rooftops or cars and needed rescue by helicopter or boat during the event.

Houses and buildings were flooded and people’s possessions lost, this event placed a huge pressure on our communities. A state of emergency was declared, with Civil Defence activation following immediately after. Communities have also banded together to provide each other shelter and necessities as people start the recovery process.

Many farmers and growers have had silt deposited across their land destroying crops, infrastructure and arable land, others have experienced a significant number of slips on their property reducing the availability of grazing land and stock feed.

Small and large businesses across the region are feeling the impacts of the cyclone. They have either been directly impacted, due to reasons such as flooding, or indirectly, for example a loss of, or reduction in business or a lack of tourists or visitors.

It is estimated 5.4km of river stopbanks across Hawke’s Bay were breached and 28km weakened, leaving 190km intact. Permanent repairs will take months to complete, but temporary fixes have been put in place to ensure that the flood network protection network is restored.

Drains across the region were blocked with a combination of woody debris, leaf litter and silt.  Drain clearage will need to be repeated as new rainfall continues to wash silt back into drains.

The most significant infrastructural damage has been to the region’s bridges and roading network, cutting off communities from main centres and causing ongoing traffic issues. Roads were impacted by multiple large slips and silt build up.

During the event, two power substations were flooded, and a lot of the lines network was damaged. This cut off power and internet to 1000’s of households, with connection to some rural areas taking extended periods of time to be reconnected.

Numerous pump stations along drainage systems were impacted and instruments used for rainfall and river monitoring damaged or lost.

Close to 30% of the Hawke’s Bay Trail network was damaged and unable to be used due to stopbank damage, roading/trail slips or destroyed bridges. Trees, debris and access issues meant HBRC needed to close our parks until such time as they are able to be cleared and made safe for the public.

Widespread flooding deposited silt throughout the region, in some places up to 2 metres in depth. Covering arable land, roads and tracks, spreading throughout houses, buildings and vehicles and infiltrating drains, it has left behind a huge volume to be dealt with.  

With silt coming from mixed origins, as well as it’s fine-particled nature meaning it’s easily aerated when it dries, it poses a health and safety hazard to people. PPE is necessary when dealing with silt removal.

The flood event collected vast amounts of wood debris and channelled it through the extensive river network and eventually out to sea. The result of this has seen huge amounts of wood deposited on coastlines, river sides, piled up at bridges and washed onto flooded, low lying areas.

The aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle has resulted in large volumes of waste. Flooded household items, destroyed infrastructure, posts and wire from cropping lands, vehicles as well as woody debris and silt – the list is long.


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