Military to help school campsite evacuation in Hunua Ranges

A second school campsite in the Hunua Ranges is being evacuated with the help of the military after torrential rain brought down a tree across a key access road.

The Auckland Council has confirmed about 150 pupils and 40 adults at the Hunua Falls Camp in Falls Rd are being evacuated after they were trapped at the church-run campsite this morning.

Northcote Primary School acting principal Jo Gregory said while the 191 students, staff and parents at the campsite were "perfectly safe" a decision was made to evacuate.


She said advice from Civil Defence and the possibility of quickly changing weather conditions meant it was time to leave.

She said the group of year 5 and year 6 students, aged 8 to 10, handled the situation "very well" as the river running at the bottom of the campsite grew rapidly.

Northcote Primary School sends its students to the camp in the Hunua Ranges annually, but Gregory said the group has never experienced such horrid conditions.

The children were due to leave the camp tomorrow but were walked out to waiting buses before being taken to Hunua School where an emergency welfare centre had been set up to cater for the stranded pupils.

Students evacuated after flooding at Camp Adair in the Hunua Ranges south of Auckland. Photo / Supplied
Students evacuated after flooding at Camp Adair in the Hunua Ranges south of Auckland. Photo / Supplied

The school group makes 350 people Auckland Civil Defence have had to rescue in the past few hours.

Emergency evacuations began before daybreak as parents sleeping in tents started to float away when a torrent of water swept through Camp Adair at the foot of Auckland's Hunua Ranges.

Nearly 200 children and adults from two schools have been evacuated from waist-deep floodwaters at the camp overnight.

Groups of Year 5 and 6 children from Stanley Bay School on Auckland's North Shore and from Mangatawhiri School were ferried by tractor through the metre-deep water to safety.

Stanley Bay teacher Helen Pelham said two parents sleeping in tents woke about 4am to find themselves being swept away by the fast-rising floodwaters.

The pair quickly raised an alarm.

"There was a torrent running through the camp," Pelham said.

One cabin block was evacuated out by tractor but another could not be reached so parents and teachers waded through waist-high murky water to help trapped children through the flooded campground.

"If one of the children had tried to cross that it would have been a disaster," Pelham said.

Photos from the YMCA campsite show metre-deep water surrounding an ablution block.

Live: Widespread flooding affects East Auckland, Coromandel

Flooding at Camp Adair in the Hunua Ranges south of Auckland. Photo / Supplied
Flooding at Camp Adair in the Hunua Ranges south of Auckland. Photo / Supplied

Pelham said the waters turned into a dangerous torrent within half an hour.

The large group of mainly 9- and 10-year-old children initially sought refuge at a local farm and then went to Hunua School.

The Red Cross and Auckland Civil Defence took dry blankets to the school and organised food.

Pelham said the children were taken by bus back to Stanley Bay School where they could be picked up by parents.

"We understand that everyone is well and accounted for," said Auckland Civil Defence's head of emergency operations Aaron Davis.

"If your child is attending the camp, please contact your school directly for additional information."

It's hoped to take the stranded children back home by buses, but many roads in the area remain cut off by flooding and it is unclear when that will happen.

Stanley Point School board chairman Greg Bella said everyone was safe after the unexpected evacuation.

"We're trying to get buses in at the moment to get them out," he said.

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He said the children had just arrived for the camp, which was now suddenly cut short by the weather.

Auckland Civil Defence emergency management response manager Keith Souddes said emergency services helped evacuate the large group of school children.

"A significant amount of rain water has fallen in that area and most if not all of the roads are impassable by normal vehicles, so we're trying our best to get emergency services in there and get as much information as possible."

Flooding at Camp Adair in the Hunua Ranges south of Auckland. Photo / Supplied
Flooding at Camp Adair in the Hunua Ranges south of Auckland. Photo / Supplied

YMCA Auckland chief operations officer Arvid Ditchburn said no lives were at risk and the children remained calm.

MetService said 166mm of rain had fallen in the Hunua Ranges overnight.

The Hunua Regional Park is now closed.

Meanwhile, the Coastguard has rescued three people and a dog who were trapped by floodwaters in the Hunua area.

An Auckland Council spokeswoman said the Coastguard used an inflatable boat to ferry the trio to safety after they were stranded by the rising waters.

- NZ Herald

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