Saturday, December 4

West Auckland floods a ‘kick in the guts’ after Covid lockdowns

“It feels like a kick in the stomach when you’re already depressed.”

Here’s how a West Auckland business owner summed up the situation after multiple roadblocks and now a deluge of rain.

Stewart Automotive & Fabrication Kumeū

Stewart Automotive & Fabrication Kumeū.
Photo: RNZ / Kate Gregan

The floods washed away dozens of homes and businesses after Monday night’s downpours. Almost 210 mm of rain fell on the municipality in 24 hours; 11 people were rescued, dozens of homes were evacuated and the floods dealt a severe blow to already struggling businesses.

Stewart Automotive & Fabrication Kumeū owner Paul Stewart said floodwaters reached waist height in his shop and damaged about 90 percent of his tools.

“He managed to get to the computers, so he ruined them. Looks like a bomb went off there. I can’t believe how much the water has moved everything.

“I’m pretty heartbroken, but at the same time, it is what it is.”

Stewart Automotive & Fabrication Kumeū

Cleaning at Stewart Automotive & Fabrication, Kumeū.
Photo: RNZ / Kate Gregan

Mud, water and oil still covered the ground Tuesday afternoon. Stewart said all the oil drums and collectors had fallen on their side during the storm and started to leak.

The amount of damage was a huge insurance claim, he said.

“We’re just trying to turn around and suck up as much as we can, so it doesn’t go down the drain.”

His wife and company office manager, Sarah Stewart, said the oil on his mask was a stark reminder that the event couldn’t have come at a worse time.

“I think it’s a bit overwhelming at this stage because there is so much to do. It still feels quite surreal,” he said.

Cole Prendergast was busy helping Paul and Sarah on Tuesday afternoon, using a wet vacuum to clean what he could.

“She is a job,” he said.

Prendergast said he wouldn’t know how long the cleanup would take until they could get everything out of the garage and reevaluate.

Paul Stewart, who has owned the company for six years, said it was a severe blow to his company that was already passing below alert level 4 and that it would take a long time to recover.

“To be honest I’m just coming back from that first crash last year, I just started to recover in a better financial position. Then we got Covid again, then another crash, and now this, so who knows. It could take another year, maybe two, “he said.

Stewart said the community would overcome the challenge together.

“It’s what I found in Kumeū and the neighboring places around here, everyone sticks together and helps, even with the cleanings and everything, so it shouldn’t be that bad,” he said.

Kumeū had 149 percent of August’s normal monthly rainfall in a single day, the second wettest day on record.

About 60 households spent one night in temporary accommodation on Monday and some spent a second night away from home, Waitākere neighborhood councilor Shane Henderson said.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff told Morning Report that some buildings in the area were likely to have red tags and that inspectors were in the area today for a comprehensive assessment. It was unclear how much repair work could be done during alert level 4, he said.

Goff said people should check their insurance policy, which would often cover the cost of alternative accommodation, and if not, the council was helping place people in motels or hotels.

Parts of Huapai, northwest of Auckland, were without power on Wednesday morning. Lines company Vector says power is back on in most places, including Piha and Bethells Beach, but major flooding around Huapai restricted safe access to the area.

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