This time last week we could barely imagine what was going to fall from the heavens. It had been an overcast day with some rain and as we came to the end of the day on Friday I decided to go out for dinner and support local people at the Manaia Club towards Whangārei Heads.
I took the bridge to the roundabout at Dave Culham Drive (the rain was falling heavily by this time) and a police car was blocking the exit towards Riverside BP. I didn't know why at that stage. However, the wind and rain was so bad we decided the roads could be dangerous and so we changed plan and went to a local restaurant in town instead.
We later learned this was wise with road blockages through Onerahi and out towards the Heads.
We had started our meal at 7.30pm and the owner had joined us for a chat when suddenly water started pouring down the walls inside the restaurant. There were seven or eight other diners and we all helped pull chairs and tables away from the wall just before the water swollen, drop roof ceiling panels exploded and fell into the restaurant. This was turning into an evening way beyond what I had expected.
As we left the restaurant we could now see the CBD clearly flooding and filling up with water and so I checked every closed shop entrance I could to see which owners I needed to call and who needed help.
It was then that I video captured a wave of water coming along the footpath from the police station towards Bank St. This would prove useful later that night to business owners who spotted it on my Facebook page and then came into town to take precautions.
I also contacted the Minister for Civil Defence and made sure he was aware of what was unfolding and touched base with the mayor.
Sandbags were clearly going to be important and so even though it was very late at night, I used a private contact I have to one large retailer who might have sandbags.
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Unfortunately they already had major flooding problems in the store. No need to visit his store he reckoned because his store was "going to visit you".
I then posted a Facebook request to anyone from Bunnings management to please make contact. This turned out to be an excellent communication path with Bunnings contacting me early the next morning saying they had free sandbags and free sand and could I get the message out.
Another Facebook post and a call to Charmaine at The Hits and the message got out. Thank you Bunnings and Charmaine. Thank you also to the community who helped me fill sandbags at Bunnings that afternoon. I used those bags at the Quarry Gardens late in the afternoon on Saturday and for a family in Tikipunga who contacted me at 10.30pm Saturday night.
I want to thank all the community people who helped over that 12 hour period particularly. I was reminded how important communication paths are in emergencies. How do I let a store owner know a wave of water is approaching their store? How do I let community know there are free sandbags? How do I reach the minister and local government officials?
As it is in many walks of life communication is key and each challenge like this gives us the opportunity to test in real time and improve our communication readiness for emergencies.
• Dr Shane Reti is the Member of Parliament for Whangārei. This is his last column before the general election on September 19.