An elderly Edgecumbe resident returned to a home destroyed by flood waters today as the cordon on zone four, the worst-affected area, was lifted.
The woman, in her 80s, discovered lost family photos, destroyed keepsakes and water-logged furniture at the house in the small Eastern Bay of Plenty town where rain from Cyclone Debbie caused a stopbank on the Rangitaiki River to breach on April 6.
As the resident, who did not want to be named, tried to lift a couch by herself in the damaged house a young volunteer helper went to her aid.
Maui Te Poono is part of the Ngati Awa Volunteer Army who today donned hazmat suits and helped residents returning to the zone where 14 houses are red stickered - sustained the most serious damage and are unlivable - and 174 are yellow-stickered - flooded and need inspection.
Te Poono, 23, said he could see the elderly woman was alone and not asking for help.
"She didn't want to make a fuss."
He said the home took in several inches of water and appliances, linen and some furniture was ruined.
"She lost family photos and little bits of treasures handed down to her. She's quite broken about that.
"I went and comforted her and asked what I could do. She just wanted someone she could talk to and just listen to her.
"I pottered around her house and did little bits and pieces while she cried her heart out."
Whakatane mayor Tony Bonne said it was an emotional return to the 229 houses in the zone.
"Some of them have been flooded in depth. Some of those houses were a metre under water," Bonne said.
As the residents and volunteers began the big clean up, the council urged people not to wash mud or silt down drains.
Civil Defence Controller Paula Chapman said it was understandable residents wanted to wash mud from homes, driveways and gardens.
"However mud and silt in the system may block pipes and cause flooding when further rain comes.
"This message doesn't just apply to Edgecumbe - the whole district's stormwater system depends on it being free of mud and silt."
On the outskirts of town farmer Donna Smit said the farm-house her daughter Corrinne and fiancé Tom O'Donnell live in had been badly damaged.
"They have to rip the skirting boards off and cut the gib[board] because the water managed to climb up the gib."
At one point O'Donnell, a former rower, rowed himself and Corrinne Smit back to their home to retrieve the couple's multisport equipment so they could continue to train for an international event in China next week.
They found a freezer full of meat toppled and O'Donnell's grandfather's diesel mechanic tools in the water, which the couple have been trying to salvage.
Smit said in her 30 years in the town she'd never seen anything like the flood waters of last week.
She and husband Corrie Smit had to get 600 cows off the farm in 12 truck-and-trailer units before they sought refuge at other daughter Tania Jones' home.
The farm had been nine days without power until today and the family had to keep walking back onto the property to retrieve essentials such as clothing.
"I'm over it."
Bonne said any hint of rain and residents panicked.
The MetService is forecasting showers for Whakatane for the rest of the Easter Weekend with fine spells and sunshine set to return on Tuesday.
Elsewhere around the country showers, some heavy, would hang around Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga until Tuesday followed by fine spells and highs ranging between 20 and 22 until Thursday.
In the Hawke's Bay, where Cyclone Cook took its toll late this week, some showers could be expected today and tomorrow with heavier showers developing and a southerly change on Monday and Tuesday. The fine weather was expected to arrive on Wednesday.
It was much the same in Wellington, with south-easterlies dying out on Tuesday and fine weather returning Wednesday. The high will only reach 16.
Christchurch would be mainly fine for the next five days with a chance of rain tomorrow, but the overnight lows will drop to single digits, as low as five degrees overnight Wednesday.
Dunedin could expect a mix of fine spells and rain tomorrow with fine weather and a high of 16 and 14 respectively on Monday and Tuesday. Rain would set in Wednesday.