Residents of the most badly flood-affected homes in Edgecumbe were being allowed back into their properties from noon today.

Whakatane mayor Tony Bonne said it would be an emotional return to the 174 yellow stickered houses in zone four, where houses had sustained the most serious damage after rain from Cyclone Debbie caused a stopbank on the Rangitaiki River to breach.

"Some of them have been flooded in-depth. Some of those houses were a metre under water," Bonne said.

Cyclone Cook added further chaos to the situation with power remaining out in many parts of the small Eastern Bay of Plenty town near Whakatane.


That resulted in 140 people being housed in temporary accommodation after Ohope was evacuated on Thursday.

The cordon for zone four, covering a total of 229 houses, was lifted at 12pm and follows a return by residents to white-stickered homes - those not flooded - yesterday.

More than 600 volunteers from around the country have registered with the Ngati Awa Volunteer Army, and dressed in white suits and gumboots were helping the residents return, cleaning up properties, lifting soggy carpets and keeping spirits up, Bonne said.

"We're wearing gloves too and everything is being treated as contaminated. We can't take any risks."

Some residents would only return to make inspections because their homes were unlivable.

"The volunteer army is only doing it case by case. If people don't want us in we don't go in because it's an emotional time for people."

Water had been restored to most of the town but people were being asked to conserve water as the network remained vulnerable, with a boil-water notice still in place.

Tankers would provide drinking water and people were being asked to bring their own containers.

Bonne said insurance assessors had already been at many of the houses.

Residents were being directed to check-in points where they would be provided with support information packs before being allowed access to their homes.

Aid and Government agencies including Work and Income, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Bay of Plenty District Health Board, Civil Defence Whakatane District Council, remained at the Edgecumbe War Memorial Hall where a headquarters had been set up for people left homeless by the severe flood.

They were supplying food, and temporary accommodation was available at Rutahi Marae in Kawerau and at the Whakatane War Memorial Hall.

Bonne said the Kawerau Marae would close on Monday and the council was considering moving all welfare support to Edgecumbe after that.

Edgecumbe dairy farmer Jeremy Brady said he had been without power since Thursday night and his 500 cows were at risk of developing mastitis because he could not milk them.

Brady, 26, was hoping to get generators from other farmers today to begin milking again.

He said his home on the 160 hectare farm on McLean Rd owned by his parents had not been flooded, but they had lost several paddocks to the water which meant about 50 cows had to be culled.

Brady said his dairy farming uncle and aunt on the other side town were badly affected after their daughter and her fiance's home was severely flooded.

They also had to truck 600 cows from their farm when the fast-rising waters hit.