On Saturday, June 20 last year, one month’s rain fell on Whanganui in 24 hours, resulting in the district’s worst flooding on record. The Chronicle is marking this event with a series of articles, going back to those affected by the flood and finding out how they coped.
Putiki Marae chairman Hone Tamehana and wife Lauren are happy to report that their ancestral home is almost fully restored after serious flood damage.
On June 20 last year, Hone was busy dealing with waters coming on to the marae from the Ngatarua Stream as well as from the river at the front gates.
Lauren, as Safer Whanganui project manager, was working with the civil defence in town and said she found it hard to be away from the marae when she knew the flooding was so bad there.
The carpark, which has now been re-sealed, flooded in a very short time and Hone said it was up to the top of his gumboots within minutes.
"We had to evacuate everyone from the six kaumatua flats but fortunately they were able to move back in three days later," he said.
The floods came just weeks after the excitement of Prince Harry's visit to the marae, and the Tamehanas said the Prince sent a message of concern when he heard about the disaster.
Support came from closer to home with assistance from the Tupoho Trust, the Whanganui City College student army, the Quaker Settlement and others.
"We really appreciate all the help that arrived and people kept coming back every day to lend a hand."
The marae would be closed for six months as the extent of damage to the buildings was assessed.
There was particular concern about damage to the historic wharenui when the wooden floor had to be removed.
The original rammed earth floor was exposed and Mr Tamehana said the primary colours of the tukutuku panels were revealed.
"It was like a time capsule under there, I was amazed at how vivid the colours were - the blue was a true indigo."
Having the marae out of action for six months meant no income, which put financial strain on the board.
"We still had all the same outgoings so it was stressful," said Mrs Tamehana.
They were able to re-open in time for the Waitangi Tribunal's report on the Whanganui land claim in October last year.
"We worked around the clock to get it ready and we've been getting a lot of bookings since."
The only damage that has not been repaired at Putiki are some cracks in the dining room floor.
The Tamehanas say they are thankful that nothing was lost to the floods although they are concerned about the probability of future events and how and the Ngatarua Stream might be managed to minimise flooding in future.