Kathryn Davis can't wait to get home.

Close to 12 months ago her Rata Ave home was one of the hundreds in the path of muddy Rangitaiki River floodwater that had burst through a section of concrete wall and enveloped the town.

A year down the track 70 per cent of residents who had to repair their homes have been able to return. Davis and her family are part of the 30 per cent who have not yet made it.

"I have no criticism of any person or any organisation – the process had just been a lot slower than I ever thought it would be," Davis said.

Advertisement

On April 6, 2017 Davis had made an early morning trip to Rotorua to collect her daughter Holly from the airport. Holly, a university student in Wellington, was returning for the holidays.

She left her then 15-year-old son Jacob at home.

"Holly and I were driving along the Matata Straights and my phone started going off. I asked Holly to see what it was about and there were texts asking whether I was at home and whether I had heard anything about the river overflowing.

"Then we were told Edgecumbe was being evacuated."

Davis said she and her daughter got as far as the Veterinary Clinic before being told they couldn't go any further.

"Everyone was leaving the town and we were trying to get in. I was telling people at the cordon I had to go in as my son was home alone and I needed to get to him, we'd lost touch with Jacob by that stage."

While Davis was trying to process what was going on and talking to another person at the cordon about ways to get to her home, Holly handed her mother her phone and her jersey and waded into floodwater to "rescue" her brother.

"What she was doing didn't register with me until after I had finished talking to the lady at the cordon and I asked her where my daughter had gone. She said she had gone in to get her brother and it wasn't until then I realised she had given me her phone and jersey."

Holly was picked up by a tractor but jumped off in Puriri Cres once she realised it would take some time to get to Rata Ave. While on the tractor she saw a dog that was tied up, drowning in flood water.

"As she made her way to Jacob, she ripped her jeans on a fence that was under water, and had to dodge floating whiteware."

By the time Holly made it close to the family home, Jacob had grabbed the dog Chip and waded out on to dry land on College Rd. Someone later told Davis that Holly was crying with relief when she found her brother but also giving him a good tongue lashing at the same time.

The Davis youngsters were told they were being taken to the Awakeri Hall so Davis and her husband Danny raced there but they ended up at the Edgecumbe Fire Station. They eventually hitched a ride out to where their parents were waiting at the cordon.

The family initially stayed with family in Kawerau before renting a home in Whakatane, where they still are.

Davis works at Edgecumbe Kindergarten so has been returning almost every day.

"Working in Edgecumbe allowed me to remain part of the community and help support families through their grieving. I have also spent many hours in my Rata Ave garden, which has been therapeutic."

She described the insurance process as very laborious and very time-consuming and admits she knows a lot more about insurance now than before the flood.

"The contents process was a nightmare as I had to itemise everything, where I got it from and what I paid for it – that took so much energy and so many hours and there were delays.

"The build has also taken longer than expected.

"I don't know how many times we've been given a date and it's fallen through, but we're supposed to be back home in about three weeks."

Davis says she is very grateful and realises there are people who are still a long way off returning, and in some cases, perhaps not ever able to return.

"For me, moving forward, we need to remember there are people who are still not home and some who are home and still finding it hard, and not forget about them."