Catastrophic Flooding in Hawkes Bay

Hawkes Bay my home region, has been smashed to bits.

Cyclone Gabrielle, a severe tropical cyclone that reached a Category 3 on February 6, 2023 threw days of heavy rain and high winds at New Zealand – many regions from Northland to the Central North Island and below were affected by flooding, washed out bridges, power outages, destroyed roads and lost homes.

And one of the regions that was severely flooded was my home. Hawkes Bay.

The flooding lasted for days.

Many areas of Hawkes Bay are now under metres of water, silt and debris. A natural disaster of epic proportions.

Cyclone Gabrielle came roaring through and, like many others, I watched from far away in horror as the worst flooding in memory took my home region apart. Literally an entire landscape changed overnight. The water roared down the rivers, broke the banks, spread outwards across the plains and then plunged into the sea.

Flooding through plains beside the sea. Esk River Bridge.

We will discuss later the impact of a changing climate on three small islands. We can discuss later my intense and urgent mission to teach as many people as possible to live in a self sufficient and sustainable way. We must discuss later how to future proof our lives against the effects of climate change.

Bridge filled with debris after flooding.

But for now we grieve with my people who are literally digging themselves out and and into the realisation that nothing will be the same again.

They have lost so much.

Trees that had been felled by the forestry and left on the hillsides roared down the overflowing rivers like torpedoes. Smashing the pilings from under the bridges. Too many bridges.

Homes sunmerged.

Stock and pets washed away.

Country towns cut off with no electricity and no supplies for days. And maybe weeks.

The power plants were flooded and not one generator is to be had in the region. Petrol is being rationed but the supermarkets are slowly opening with generators for power.

The bridges are the real worry: – including the Esk River Bridge, Waiohiki Bridge, Puketapu Bridge, Rissington Bridge and Brookfield Bridge – all impassable. New Zealand is a land of water and rivers – we NEED the bridges. And this list does not include the myriad of small farm bridges that enable our farmers to get in and out.

It is years of work to build a bridge.

And as the waters recede even more damage is discovered.

In the words of my sister whose farmhouse was on high ground:
“ Our 4×4 is essential to get down our road as lots of slips. And a big one threatening to take the road.
Massive 15 metre hole on the road just up from us …. so might become isolated.
Fernhill Bridge is threatening to go, it’s down to one lane with single car crossings.”

Bridge over river after a flood has gone through, the bridge is full of broken trees from forestry slash.

My eldest brother decided to stay when the airforce helicopter flew in to evacuate them. He stayed on his property to look for his animals. His wife and son were airlifted out. He was left with no way to get on or off his property unless he forded the river, which was impossible. No-one in my family had word for days.

Yesterday my little brother Tim wrote this:

“To get back (to our brother) they would need to cross the river on foot as Waipunga road north goes through to Tutira, it is really long and has heaps of bridges which presumably will be out for months as well.”

Since then the road has opened to emergency traffic so his family were able to return to the property today to find my brother digging out his workshop. To a home filled with a metre of silt. All the gardens gone. The fences gone. Animals gone. Everything washed away or buried. They have begun to dig their buildings out. The horses were saved.

Horses sheltering by a tree after being rescued from floodwaters.

(The photo above was taken by my nephew and I have not been able to reach him for permission so lets hope he does not mind).

The fruit from the orchards has been washed off and carried away and the trees buried in silt. The vineyards have been smashed to bits by debris caught in the floodwaters. And with the orchards and vineyards stripped of this years harvest many jobs are gone.

I cannot begin to talk about the lost sheep and cows.

How does one survive when your life is taken back to its bare bones. And then your job is gone too.

Washed out road. Cyclone damage of Napier Taupo road. New Zealand.

BREAKING NEWS: As I was writing this post my son Sam (he lives in Wellington, NZ) called to say he is taking a truck of urgently needed supplies from Wellington to The Bay for a number of families in need. Mostly in the area where we used to live. He will probably leave Wednesday. Amongst other things he will be delivering: cleaning products, diapers, school supplies, kids toys and art supplies. Mainly cleaning products as there is a massive amount of cleaning going on.

He will get in touch with our school and see what they need too.

I am donating money for seeds and childrens art supplies because you know how I am!

My family would like to offer you the chance to join this mission, we would be grateful if you could donate whatever you can through the PAYPAL donation button at the base of the Kitchens Garden blog.

Many people will be joyful at the sight of these suppies. People you and I will never know will smile and send thank yous skywards when they get this little bit of help from us.

And I am grateful to report that, at last, all my family and friends are accounted for and all ok.

Poor bastards. But all good.

Take care and thank you


DONATE below – if you see a space for notes write Hawkes Bay FLOOD Donations.

(We are trying not to say Cyclone Gabrielle because my sisters name IS Gabrielle).

Sam is an excellent photographer and will document his journey and I will post his images as soon as our mission is complete!

Hawkes Bay Flooding Pictures from Shellie Evans, a HB photographer. Taken from her Facebook page. She has given permission for her photos to be used.

46 Comments on “Catastrophic Flooding in Hawkes Bay

  1. I made a donation earlier this week Celi. We returned from the North Island only 8 days after the first floods in Auckland several weeks ago, and now this. We are terribly sorry this has happened and wish your family and friends and the entire country courage and good will over the coming months and years. xx

    • Thank you so much for donating Ardys. It will take years to recover from this and am just grateful to be able to help out local school get back on its feet and help those working families in that area.

      Maybe flooding is going to be the name of the game in NZ.

      Maybe people should not be living on these plains.

  2. I just donated $100 via paypal — no opportunity to leave a targeting comment. Look for it from lynnpaypal. All my best to the brave rebuilders!

  3. How truly awful, sad, devastating this has happened again and again and touches us, people who we know and their loved ones and of course all the others affected. Thank you for sharing you and your family’s personal stories and photos. There is what we see via news media and social media and then there is this. We were able to make a donation to the New Zealand Red Cross Disaster Fund. I hope your family are able to access it. It will be a long road for them – residents of areas not too far from us affected by devastating floods this time last year, and the year before are still recovering- there is no good news/scenario for those impacted. Even people who are covered by house insurance are affected in other ways. It is so good your son Sam can render tangible real-time assistance. It is that kind of thing that made really helped people affected by the floods here last year.

  4. NZ has taken its hits of late 🙁 my friends are there as well as a NH friend who stays 6 mos. a year there hoping they make it through.

    • Thank you! Yes! I am earmarking them as they come in. I was sure that PayPal had a note section but things change I guess.

      Thank you so much!! This is greatly appreciated.

  5. I was aware of this catastrophe as some friend# of mine are holidaying in N.Z and have been trapped in Devonport. But l had not realised the total devastation until reading your blog today! So moved by your personal writing. I then read an article in our Guardian newspaper about Hawkes Bay which l’m hoping to forward to you. So sorry to only be able to send a little cash due to Turkey/Syria appeal donation! What a world.💔

    • Thank you so much for all you donate to peoples in need. The world needs more people like you. You donation will go directly to a family who lost their home to the flood. Thank you so much.

  6. I followed this disaster on the news from the UK, but your account and images tell us so much more. I am so sorry that you and your family have had to deal with this, but I fear that this is something we will all have to deal with, one way or the other….unless we completely change our ways. Having sent money to to Turkey I am low on funds right now…however, if things change I will send something. Janet

  7. Oh Miss C this is awful, just heartbreaking. So much destruction. I hope all of your family and loved ones in the area are safe. That picture of the horses was too much, I am in tears. The poor things look like they are in shock. Your brother is a good man, even if not the safest choice, to stay with his animals. We have to change the things are done, it is so frustrating that people, companies and governments still deny climate change it just don’t care. We do have a lot of work to do!

  8. As one who has lived through the edge of a Category 3 and cleaned inches of sludge and mud from the floors of our home, hauled away fallen trees, lived without electricity for a week and water for 5 days (all of which felt quite bad enough but pales by comparison), my profound and heartfelt sympathy. To the list of urgent supplies, please add water filters, batteries and pet food. We have already donated elsewhere.

    • Thank you so much for donating Kate!

      Our list is actually coming from the people in need – but batteries are an excellent addition especially for torches. I hope we can raise enough money – batteries are expensive in NZ.

  9. I have just donated $25 on pay pal. This devastation is heartbreaking. Why oh why can’t the world see and act to slow down and reverse climate change. It’s like thinking you’ll never be the one who dies so you don’t get your will done. The death of our planet is breathing down our backs but we can’t take the action required to make sure things are ok when we are gone. I’m going to follow your plans for sustainability and do what I can. I can talk more about what we can do so others might listen too. I feel so hopeless at times. May your family stay safe and I hope this little donation will help someone feel just a little more light in such darkness. Faye from Canada

  10. Here is some more science to help understand the Cyclone…..and a heads-up re the possibility of more….we hope not!

    I have seen calls today for homes here to have solar panels and batteries to store energy on/under our sun-baked roofs in New Zealand. It would require Government assistance but would be another sustainable option for retaining power supplies.

    • It is a good option as long as the power goes to the house first. I do like that idea! We had a solar heater on our roof when I was a child -40/ 50 years ago. It is us do doable.

  11. I’m so sorry to read about this terrible catastrophe. My thoughts are with you and your family and all those affected. I made a donation but couldn’t earmark it. I hope you find it and can pass my small gift of love and support forward. Please keep us updated!

  12. Oh Celi. As a New Zealander and as you know, we all know somebody wherever there is a disaster be it man-made or as in this case, climate driven. . We read and cried as the news has been promulgated around our small battered country.We have seen the damage caused, both on the media and from friends living in the area. No power, no gas to run the barbecues and cut off from the rest of the world because the bridges are down. A friend’s daughter is living in Napier and with her family decided the best place they could help at this stage is the local rest home for the aged. To even get there it took almost an hour for a journey that would normally take 15 or 20 minutes. And for those of us who don’t live in the area we can do what we can to help by making donations of money but more particularly of cleaning items, torch batteries and something that is so often forgotten, female sanitary requirements. The local supermarkets are collecting such donations to be sent on to those in need. But as you say, it is going to take years to recover from these effects, even if we are able to recover. I’m glad to hear that your family are well as is ours And even if thoroughly wet, exhausted, and overwhelmed, our friends are rallying around and helping each other in this major clean up.
    A Special thanks to you for this call for donations. I am glad you are going to be able to visit with your family in a few months time.

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