Residents of the northern part of the flooded town of Edgecumbe will begin to return to their homes today.
Owners of about 130 homes will be allowed back in after the massive flood, caused when the Rangitaiki River breached a stopbank last Thursday.
Owners of some 46 properties were allowed back in today in the southeastern area, and all have an available water supply, but still have limited wastewater services.
"It's good to be back home," said Reg Te Riini from the front deck of his home. "It just feels great."
Krichelle Te Riini's newly-renovated home was in the flood zone. She had briefly visited it on Sunday to find a smashed gate outside and chaos inside.
"It's just gross," she said. "There was grey silt everywhere, and it was all brown in the bath. I nearly slipped on the lino."
Across the road, keen deerstalker Richard Savage, 79, arrived home and went straight to the freezer to check that the electricity had kept his venison frozen.
It felt "brilliant" to be back, he said.
Areas south of State Highway 2 at Edgecumbe will be assessed tomorrow to see if any are safe to return to.
Whakatane District Council aims to reopen further areas of Edgecumbe that have not been subject to flooding in the coming days as soon as water supplies have been restored and areas have been declared safe by health authorities.
While there is potentially heavy rain forecast for later in the week, the council has plenty of warning if further evacuations are necessary, the statement said.
"Residents will be alerted by fire station sirens sounding continuously and by emergency services vehicles driving round with sirens on. That will be the signal to move.
"Those who are back in their homes by tomorrow can register for emergency text alerts by texting WH to 2028. You should get a text back confirming registration."
On damaged properties, the Urban Search and Rescue task force has today been doing rapid damage assessments of properties south of SH2. Building inspectors will start doing full checks in the area and through the rest of Edgecumbe tomorrow to help determine whether homes can be lived in again.
"We're making a change to where people can register for assisted access to their properties that can't yet be lived in but are okay to access. The reason we're doing this is to have one single point for the delivery of consistent information."
There will now be a single registration centre the Awakeri Events Centre on SH30, which will be open from 8am each day.
Police are reiterating that access isn't intended to be for multiple visits. People are asked to get essentials on one trip rather than request to keep going back.
"The Edgecumbe township generally remains cordoned off to ensure public safety while floodwaters are being pumped away. This is a safety precaution to protect people from sanitation risks associated with sewage system failures and surface water contamination.
"Some residents may be away from their homes for up to 10 days."
Residents in need of animal welfare support should call 0800 306 0500.
Meanwhile, financial aid for businesses and residents in Edgecumbe will be discussed in detail this week, Prime Minister Bill English said.
English told Breakfast that experience in other natural disasters showed it was important to provide early support to give people "confidence and direction".
Some of those residents may look at recouping their losses in other ways, with more than 100 people signalling an interesting in joining a class-action lawsuit.
"There are people who are under-insured and they need some way of getting their money back," said Whakatane District Council community board member Graeme Bourk.
Bourk claims "incompetence" was to blame for the ultimate failure of a flood wall in the Rangitaiki River - and has the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Matahina Dam operator Trustpower in his sights.
"They promised us in 2004 at a public meeting they would never allow it to happen again, and this is worse," he said.
Former Finance Minister Sir Michael Cullen will chair an independent review into the flooding of Edgecumbe.
What you need to know:
• Wastewater, water and power are due to be back on in the northern area tomorrow and any updates will be published on the Whakatane District Council website.
• People in Hydro Rd and the streets that come off it who are allowed home should access their streets via Western Drain Rd and McCracken Rd.
• Anyone registering for assisted access to their properties can register at the Awakeri Events Centre on SH30, which will be open from 8am each day.
• Flood affected residents whose homes are damaged who have not yet registered their details with the Whakatane District Council are urged to call its free phone number, 0800 306 0500.
• Those people who are staying in motels and other temporary accommodation who have been asked to vacate in the coming days should contact 0800 306 0500 and give full details of their situation to customer service staff.
• Residents in need of animal welfare support should call 0800 306 0500.
• Evacuees who have registered with the district council because they have indicated they have accommodation needs will be contacted as soon as possible. If your need is urgent call 07 306 2013 extension 7327.