The sign which stood up to flood

A sign promoting Kyle Stevenson's business is one of the few structures in Edgecumbe to successfully withstand the full brunt of the Rangitaiki River, when it broke through a stop bank on April 6.

“I'm getting heaps of comments about the fact my sign is still standing in the same place but my house and workshop behind it have been moved off their foundations,” says Kyle, who operated his business Nexus Signs from a large workshop on his College Road property.

“I'm pretty impressed at how the sign came through the flood.”

However, the home he shared with partner Zara and seven-month-old daughter Lomani is among several which have been condemned because, as they were directly opposite where the stop bank breached, they have been extensively damaged.

The sign which survived the flood – outside Kyle Stevenson's severely damaged College Road home.

Fortunately only Kyle and his dog Thor were at home when the stop bank failed at 8am on Thursday April 6.

“I got a phone call from a friend saying I should get out and went outside and saw two firemen on either end of the stop bank, and then water started coming through my house. That was shocking,” says Kyle, who left on foot, with Thor and nothing else.

The next time he saw his home of three years was from the opposite side of the river.

“We could see the roof of my house moving backwards and forwards so I knew it was pretty bad.”

However, even that didn't prepare Kyle for what he saw when he was able to return after the water receded.

“The house has been picked up and moved. The workshop had moved too and there was a huge five metre deep hole next to my house.”

Yesterday Kyle was hoping to get access, with the assistance of the fire brigade, to the workshop to retrieve some equipment and records. Virtually everything in the home has been lost.

“I'm surprised the windows didn't break – the water was that high inside. It's pretty bad here and for my neighbours, but it's also awful for those homes which were flooded with contaminated water.”

Like others in the small town, Kyle is questioning why the wall failed.

“As ratepayers we contributed to a $50 million spillway which was supposed to protect Edgecumbe. However, although I want to know what happened, I'm not focusing on blaming anyone. I'm getting on with my life and getting my business up and running again to support my family.

“There's no point in getting down and depressed. You have to keep going and be positive,” says Kyle, whose father's home was also affected by the floods.

“I've found a new workshop in Kawerau and have arranged with the insurance company to get new equipment for my signwriting business, so I'll be up and running within a couple of weeks.

“I don't want to leave Edgecumbe as this is my community, but we've been welcomed in Kawerau.”

Members of the Ngati Awa Volunteer Army at work in Edgecumbe yesterday afternoon.

Kyle is grateful no one died in the floods and for the generosity of so many people who have donated food, clothing and more for him and his family.

He and Zara's plans to raise a family in Edgecumbe may have been washed away, but the couple remain positive about the future.

The Edgecumbe community is still struggling to recover from the flood, with many people not yet living in their homes. The streets are lined with skip bins, piles of damaged household items, and piles of white ware.

On-going help will be needed and the Whakatane District Council has set up the Edgecumbe & Eastern Bay of Plenty Mayoral Flood Appeal on Givealittle.

Along with the extensive damage to Edgecumbe, other communities affected by flooding and slips are Taneatua, Ruatoki, Ruatahuna, Te Whaiti, Ngaputahi and Waimana. Money raised through the fund will be used to fund applications for aid.

The Red Cross Bay of Plenty Flood Appeal needs public support to help people get back on their feet and into their homes. Donations can be made to Red Cross over the internet, and can also be made at Countdown supermarkets, which have kick-started fundraising by chipping in $10,000.

The Ngati Awa Volunteer Army is being set up by Te Runanga o Ngati Awa, working with Whakatane District Council and BOP Regional Council to help with the cleanup. 

More photos of the Edgecumbe flood devastation below:


Remains of the wall.

Skip bins of household goods and piles of damaged white wear in College Road.