There's light at the end of the tunnel for a Northland couple whose home was trashed by floods eight months ago.
Many people in the isolated Waikare Valley, east of Kawakawa, were affected by July's record-breaking rain with some properties buried in logs and debris while others were cut off when bridges were swept away.
Joe and Shirley Reti were the worst hit with their home left uninhabitable by silt and floodwater, forcing them to move into a bed and breakfast for a few weeks — or so they thought.
Eight months on they're still waiting to go home.
There's good news for the couple, however, with a flurry of repairs in recent weeks and a promise they'll be home before winter.
The burst of activity, after months of painfully slow progress, coincided with inquiries by the Advocate and advocacy by Solomon Group chief executive Lynette Donohoe, who, like the Retis, has ties to Waikare Marae.
Shirley Reti said she couldn't understand why it had taken so long.
''The insurance process from when we got flooded to when the contractor got the tender took a very long time. It seemed to me we kept getting put on the back burner.''
Recent progress had greatly raised their spirits, she said.
''We just want to move back, we want to have the cats on the bed.''
Two weeks ago the walls were Gibbed again and the piles fixed; last week an electrician, a drain blaster and a plumber were in and their septic tank was pumped out.
This week a plasterer and painter are due to finish the interior.
''It's been go, go, go the last couple of weeks. We've been told we'll be back home by the end of May. We're pleased there's progress. It's awesome.''
Joe Reti said at times they had been so stressed they had packed their bags and gone to a motel somewhere just to get away.
It had also been tough not being able to have their mokopuna stay during school holidays. It had been a year since their last visit, first because of Covid, then the flood.
Shirley Reti said they also needed to get home for the sake of their three cats and 13 chickens, which were getting skittery after being on their own for much of the past eight months.
With not enough room at the bed and breakfast for her elderly mother — who normally lived with the couple for half of the year — they had rented a portable cabin. However, access to the toilet and shower became too difficult so she is now staying with another daughter in the Waikato.
A spokesman for insurance company IAG said a number of factors had led to delays in repairing the couple's home.
They included the large number of claims in the area after the floods and delays in securing contractors because of the home's remote location.
Also, because the Retis' home required extensive reinstatement, a building consultant had to be engaged to scope the damage and outline repair methodology.
''During the entire process, we have kept Shirley and Joe informed and aware of the challenges being faced in the repair process,'' he said.
The $100,000-plus repair job was scheduled for completion in May though the work was currently six weeks ahead of schedule.
The company had paid for alternative accommodation for the Retis, not far from their home, under their insurance policy's accommodation benefit.
''IAG is doing everything we can to complete their repairs as soon as possible despite the considerable challenges,'' he said.
The company had also agreed to cover accommodation costs for one other member of the extended whānau.
The Advocate understands the costs of accommodating Shirley Reti's mother were not originally covered.
Lynette Donohoe, who had written to the Prime Minister about the delays in getting the couple home, said she was ''absolutely delighted'' with recent progress.
She had become increasingly concerned for the Retis' well-being and said they needed to be home for their community's sake as well as their own.
The couple, who she described as ''salt of the earth Northlanders'', were pivotal to the Waikare Valley community with Shirley Reti, for example, the secretary at Waikare Marae.
Last Friday Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis and Northland MP Willow-Jean Prime visited Waikare Valley as a follow-up to a hui last November about flooding issues.
Shirley Reti said they had discussed access, stopbanks, raising houses and clearing the river further upstream.
Davis had given her an undertaking he would raise local concerns with his colleagues in Wellington.