John and Carol Harold have taken to the walls of their home with saws and Stanley knives to cut away sodden lining and carted off truckloads of damaged goods after flood waters raced through the house in April.
“We've had floods here before but they usually just cover the driveway – they don't come into the house,” says John, who with Carol has lived in the home on their kiwifruit orchard since 1992.
A drain runs through the property, and when the water started to rise on April 6, John and neighbours began pumping water into a nearby canal.
“The water wasn't getting away so someone went to check and we realised it was just coming back round because the stopbank at Edgecumbe had breached.”
The Harold orchard is in Otakiri Rd, about two kilometres from Edgecumbe, but that distance offered no protection from the flooding that also severely impacted Edgecumbe.
“It came up quite slowly, so we had time to grab some valuables and put some things up high, but in many cases it wasn't high enough,” says Carol.
John got his two tractors up on tyres in an attempt to protect them, secured his boat to its trailer, and anchored it to a kiwifruit post, because he was worried the water would float it away.
Open home – the bottom section of the walls in John and Carol Harold's home has been cut away and wheelbarrows, brooms and shovels have been used to help clean up after the April floods.
But there was nothing they could do about their 1.8 hectares of kiwifruit vines – which are a mix of gold G3 and Hayward varieties. “It looks like we have quite a good crop this year, but I'm worried about how the vines will recover from being underwater for so long.
“We've had Psa-V in the vines and this will probably make it worse,” says John.
It was seven days until the surface water receded from the orchard, leaving the ground sodden. While the orchard was flooded, John and Carol used a small runabout boat to check on their property. “I never thought I'd be going around my orchard in a boat but the water was too deep for us to walk,” says John.
Carol says the house was still full of water when they first returned. “When I opened the door to the laundry, everything came floating out to meet me. The water was above my knees in the house.”
The couple are grateful they were well insured with AMI and that the house is well-built with a concrete floor. However, floor coverings, furniture, curtains and many of their personal possessions, plus the contents of fridge and freezer, have had to be dumped.
“No good getting upset about it. You just have to get on and clean up as quickly as possible. Our family, especially our son-in-law Ross Cogle and our daughter Alethia, have been wonderful in helping cut the wall board so things can dry out, and cleaning up,” says Carol.
“This flood should never have happened. It was well known that the wall that failed in Edgecumbe was leaking in the 2004 flood. The rest of the stopbanks are not that great either, as I don't think they are properly maintained – not like they used to be in the days of the drainage board.
“I will be making submissions to the independent investigation set up by regional council,” says John, who wants answers to why his orchard, and the farms and houses of hundreds of people were so badly affected by a storm that was forecast well in advance.