A council in a neighbouring district, along with a South Island council, is showing its support for recovery efforts in the Tararua District through a campaign to help those communities impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle.
Adopt-a-Community is an initiative launched by Local Government New Zealand to match councils with the councils affected by the weather event, and at least two - Gore District Council and Horowhenua District Council - were matched with Tararua District.
While Dannevirke and other townships in the district weren’t as badly hit, communities including Weber, Herbertville, Pongaroa and Ākitio were severely impacted, with many roads still only able to be accessed using 4WD vehicles.
Horowhenua District Council Mayor Bernie Wanden said the council adopted Tararua District Council as a show of support and aroha for the cyclone-ravaged area.
“The Horowhenua community is full of people with big hearts who, in tough times, want to find meaningful ways to help,” he said.
“We’ve all been watching the devastating scenes from around the country, and Adopt-a-Community gives us a direct connection to help a badly affected community. This is a great way to wrap our arms around the Tararua District and show them our support.”
Wanden said it was known from Horowhenua’s experience with extreme weather that recovery could take some time.
“We’re exploring ways we can provide medium and long-term support, too.
“We are here to support all communities as they face a long road to recovery, but this specific initiative is about us getting our energy and attention to our neighbours in the Tararua District,” Wanden said.
Horowhenua District Council chief executive Monique Davidson said they were glad to be matched with Tararua District.
“Not only are we geographically close, but we have a great relationship, with like-minded communities.”
In May last year, Levin was hit by a tornado which caused damage to several properties.
Davidson said the community was appreciative and touched by the support they received from Aotearoa when the May 20, 2022 weather event hit.
“Although Adopt-a-Community is a great way to pay it forward, we are always willing to support communities around Aotearoa in their time of need if we can.”
She said within 24 hours of Cyclone Gabrielle hitting Central Hawke’s Bay, staff were deployed to help with logistics, operations and welfare across Hawke’s Bay and Tararua District.
“We also arranged the delivery of three water tankers, five water bladders that hold 1000 litres of water each and approximately 1000 bottles of water, many of which were kindly donated by Levin Countdown.”
Wanden and Tararua District Mayor Tracey Collis had been in contact and had discussed the challenges of responding to the weather event alongside usual council business and the challenges local businesses in particular would be facing in Cyclone Gabrielle’s wake.
LGNZ National Council member and Central Otago District Council Mayor Tim Cadogan said the mayors of each council would be driving the initiative.
“We’ve all been watching the devastating scenes in the news and really want to help in a meaningful way.”
With local councils taking a leading role in immediate emergency efforts, colleagues from other parts of the country were wanting to lend a helping hand in a positive and tangible way.
More than 30 adopter councils had signed on to adopt each council still dealing with the impacts of the cyclone.
The initiative was different from other fundraising efforts in that Adopt-a-Community would look to medium to long-term initiatives “because we know our colleagues will need that support throughout the year”, Cadogan said.
He said local government leaders would have “an incredible ability” to bring communities together.
“What we know from experience is that when it comes to communities getting back on their feet, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. That’s especially true with a disaster at this scale.”
Donations would be driven straight to the adopted community’s Mayoral Relief Fund, giving mayors the autonomy to use the funds as needed.
Collis said she thought the campaign was a great idea as it would take some of the pressure off.
She said Tararua District Council had played a big part when other areas had their own Civil Defence emergencies, and staff members had been sent to help with the knowledge that should the district need help in return, those other areas would be there to provide it.
“I thought the adopting a council was a great initiative. A way to spread the load and spread the love.”
One thing she had noticed with people in communities in the Tararua District was that people didn’t want to ask for help because they didn’t see their needs as being as important as those in other affected areas such as Hawke’s Bay, Wairoa, Tairāwhiti and Auckland.
“Our people are resilient, and they look and think, ‘I’m not so bad’. But actually, out on our networks, and when you have a look ... at the area that is impacted, it looks [to be] exactly half the Tararua District, and it’s all out in our rural and coastal communities.”
Collis said it was going to be a long recovery, so it was good to have that extra support.