A day after floodwater swept through Edgecumbe the Kia Kaha Edgecumbe Facebook page was born.

The brainchild of Larni Hepi, this was what Kia Kaha Edgecumbe started out as.

Do you own a spade, tractor, mop or broom? Join the group and stand by to help with the massive clean-up task in Edgecumbe. Spread the word and invite everyone. Kia Kaha Edgecumbe was created in response to the severe flooding that inundated the town after the banks of the Rangitaiki River gave way. Hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed and flooded and thousands of people evacuated. NEED some help cleaning up? Know of anyone needing help? Keen to help? Please simply post to the page. Thanks.

Hundreds asked to join the page on day one, and immediately offers of donations from throughout the country began to flood in.

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While Edgecumbe was still cordoned and closed to residents, Hepi rallied a few friends and opened the door to the Te Teko Hall on the Sunday after the flood as a place where donated goods could be dropped off and collected.

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Donations were also sent to Kawerau's Rautahi Marae and the Whakatane War Memorial Hall where flood evacuees had been taken.

At the Te Teko Hall, there was a continual stream of trucks, trailers, cars and even a train from Tauranga that brought blankets, clothes, shoes, toiletries, food, beds, lounge suites, whiteware, appliances, toys, books – some pre-loved, some brand new.

"We were pretty busy those first couple of weeks," Te Teko Hall donated goods manager Priscilla Morrison said.

"A lot of people from around the country took it upon themselves to organise collections from within their communities, find a truck to load it all in to, and then drive to Te Teko to drop it off."

Donations came in so quickly, the next door neighbour's garage was commandeered for storage followed by goods being taken to a nearby marae.

Morrison quickly roped in other volunteers who spent thousands of hours sorting through donated goods, taking home things that needed to be washed, stacking in sizes, making up food parcels and toilet bags and finding more display tables and shelves.

"We were trying to write down where all the donations came from, individuals, businesses, community groups and organisations, but sometimes there were vehicles backed up and it was all hands on deck trying to get everything unloaded.

"There were hundreds and hundreds of black rubbish bags coming in on a daily basis – it was amazing.

"During the first few days we had people coming in with a water line on the shirts they were wearing, they hadn't changed their clothes since being evacuated and just wanted something clean to wear.

Priscilla Morrison kept track of donations after the Edgecumbe flood. Photo/Katee Shanks
Priscilla Morrison kept track of donations after the Edgecumbe flood. Photo/Katee Shanks

"A lot of them were very lost, they were walking around like sheep not really knowing what was going on."

She said often they weren't really in need of anything in particular, but were happy to sit down with a cup of tea and a piece of baking and just have a little bit of peace.

"You'd have to say many were overwhelmed."

In the beginning Morrison and her crew were arriving at the hall at 8am and leaving at 8pm, seven days a week.

Some months down the track she cut the weekends out and then, further along, reduced opening hours to 9am to 3pm. The Te Teko Hall eventually closed down as a donation point at the end of January.

"It was quite a special time. To be able to furnish a flood victim's home when they were able to return, or to set someone up in a rental property after they had lost an entire household of goods, was a great feeling.

"We also had a lot of laughs during the day and I believe it was good for people coming in to get bits and pieces to be part of that."

Donation drop-off points were also set up in Edgecumbe once the town was open, and in Whakatane. Storage had to be sought for the huge quantity of furniture donated.

"There was a definite need for the donation places and it was incredible seeing the generosity of people from around the country who were willing to give to people they did not know at all but people they knew were hurting."