The kids at Moerewa School love their playground.

The trouble is, for the next few weeks — maybe more than a month — they can only look at it from afar.

The playground, along with the rest of the school grounds and a large swathe of the town, was inundated with sewage-contaminated floodwater after torrential rain just over 10 days ago.

While the water quickly drained away and the Kawakawa Fire Brigade hosed away the sludge left behind on the courts, bus bay and carpark, concern remains about what else the water left behind.


Principal Maia Cooper said school buildings were unharmed but the problem was the residue.

The playground was currently cordoned off with a lot of work needed to make sure it was safe.

The bark would have to be removed, lime would be spread to kill any bugs and, after a good dose of sunlight, new bark would be laid.

Cooper said overflow from the school's septic system came up under the playground during floods, and was added to by septic tank contents washed down Otiria Rd.

This time there was only a slight odour but in previous floods the smell of sewage had been strong.

''You just don't know what's still lurking around so we've closed the playground. The kids love their playground but they have to play on the other side of the school for now.''

Cooper expected it would stay off limits for three to five weeks.

''It generates a feeling of being restricted in our own safe space. We talk about resilience and learning from adversity, but it's just becoming a real battle.''

Floodwaters stream down Otiria Rd towards Moerewa School on July 18. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Floodwaters stream down Otiria Rd towards Moerewa School on July 18. Photo / Peter de Graaf

The school was looking at replacing its septic system but infrastructure further upstream, where the flooding started, needed to be fixed for the whole town's sake.

Cooper said this flood was unusually fast with water cutting Moerewa off on all sides within hours.

''It happened really quickly. It was quite scary.''

The school board was doing what it could to support the community, which included distributing hygiene packs and uniforms to flood-affected whānau.

It had been a tough year for the town which had so far been through a pandemic, a lockdown, a police manhunt and now a flood.

''But the community spirit's really good,'' she said.


Moerewa School has 147 children in Years 1-10.