Just when the Tutukaka community is recovering from the impact of Covid-19, there's an explosion and the tsunami surges take down multiple boats, causing millions of dollars worth of damage at the marina.
Boat owners and businesses at Tutukaka Marina are still shaken up from Saturday night's tsunami surges following the large volcanic eruption in Tonga and large swells from Cyclone Cody that damaged at least 50-60 boats and sunk around a dozen other boats.
Dive Tutukaka co-owner Jeroen Jongejans says the business has already lost millions in turnover since 2020 because of Covid-19, and this will just add more to it.
"From a business point of view, we were first hit with the pandemic where we lost our international tourists, and then came the Delta variant and the lockdown last year which washed our Auckland market, then we lost four days because of the cyclone, and on top of that, we have got his happening now."
Jongejans said they pulled the boats as much as they could on Saturday night. The first thing they did the next morning was moving all the debris, the broken pole and the broken Marina parts, and moved the sunken boats that they could move out of the way to prevent further damage.
There were no Tsunami warnings issued by Civil Defence (CDem) but National Emergency Management Agency advised the coastal communities in NZ to expect strong, unusual currents and unpredictable surges at the shore.
"We expect New Zealand coastal areas on the north and east coast of the North Island and the Chatham Islands to experience strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges at the shore following a large volcanic eruption at Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'pai in Tonga,'' the CDem advisory, issued at 8.14pm on Friday said.
"Strong currents and surges can injure and drown people. There is a danger to swimmers, surfers, people fishing, small boats and anyone in or near the water close to shore.
"People in or near the sea should move out of the water, off beaches and shore areas and away from harbours, rivers and estuaries until at least 04:00 am NZDT Sunday 16 January 2022."
Jongejans said it would have been "nice" if they had been notified with a tsunami warning because they had done a lot of training and exercises around it.
"But if you don't know it is coming, and you only know when it is here then it is a bit too late to do anything or put those training to use."
Dive Tutukaka had to cancel all their bookings till Friday at this stage, but Jongejans said they do not know when they'll be able to start again.
"Part of the Marina, not ours, has been totally damaged and will take a long time and millions of dollars to get it all fixed.
"We just got to be positive, proactive, focused and not dither around, we cannot afford to be dithering.
"If we cannot operate, it has a significant impact on the economy of Tutukaka, cafes and everything. If people can't go out and visit, they don't stay and avoid the place, and Tutukaka Marina has generated a lot of income for our community. When it is partly closed off, it will have an impact afterwards.
"Hopefully, not too bad, but we will have to wait and see."
Peter Jack Ansell and Dom Gardiner had just gone to bed on their boat at the marina when they heard a loud bang.
"There was no warning, we just heard a massive explosion and everything started happening. There were big surges coming in the whole night after that."
Gardiner said they were at the end of Marina when the whole thing broke off, swinging them to the other end with two other boats.
"There was a red catamaran which broke, took out the end of D street, sunk a boat on the end of this way and then broke us off.
"The fingers of Marina just unbuckled and then broke, while we were still tied to the broken end and that swung us around and laid against the poles on the outside. I managed to lash it on and got off."
The hit damaged the front of their boat and broke windows. Gardiner hit something on the boat, and when she finally managed to get off, she tipped into the water but luckily landed on to another boat.
"The water was just pulling me towards the marina, which was okay, and then I just used my handbag because it was full of water and heavy, so I managed to pull my handbag onto one of the boats and the weight just held me on to the boat until the marina manager came and rescued us."
Gardiner did not suffer any physical injuries but felt sore and a bit "shaken".
Northland Civil Defence spokesman Murray Soljak said concerns remained about coastal surges, which were continuing throughout the day on Sunday at Tutukaka and were also being reported at Ōpononi on the opposite coast.
''The big concern for us is the continued surging and that people are aware of it. Historically we have seen surging continue for three days or more, so we urge people not to drop their guard around the ocean,'' he said.
Soljak thanked iwi, community members and emergency service personnel who had pitched in to help overnight.
Tutukaka has never before experienced surge damage to the extent seen on Saturday night, he said.
Schnappa Rock Restaurant & Bar owner Nick Keene said it was a very busy Saturday night in Tutukaka and they had to evacuate everyone when they saw the extent to which Marina was damaged.
"Much like everybody else, we heard it first and then saw the finger of El Marina had broken away,'' Keene said.
"When we saw the marina damaged to such an extent, we evacuated straight away. It was very busy. Pretty much everyone's come back today and settled their bills, which is pretty cool actually.
"We are a resilient bunch and will bounce back up pretty quick. We have got a very effective and galvanised community, it can be tough, but we'll get through."
Pukenui resident Chris Logie first heard a booming sound close to 7.30 pm, 15km from Tutukaka Marina, which to him sounded like cannon fire.
"On a heavy sea, I could hear the ocean crashing on the coast, but it didn't sound like the heavy sea, it was more like cannon fire. It was on and off for a good 45 minutes.
"I just got a call this morning and so I came around to check my boat."
His boat did not suffer much damage "like others", he said.
Meanwhile, at Mahinepua, about 10km north of Matauri Bay, holidaymakers at a beachside campground were evacuated around 8pm on Saturday.
Some spent the night with relatives while others, such as 82-year-old Geoffrey Mager, were put up by locals on higher ground.
He said the sea had been high for a few days, which he put down to Cyclone Cody, but late on Saturday surges started coming up over the road in low-lying parts of the campground.
''There were quite a lot of people staying here. My auntie said you'd better come up to the house, then the Civil Defence people said you'd better not stay the night.
Mager, who has camped at Mahinepua for the past 40 years, spent the night in a cabin at a property up the hill from the beach and returned on Sunday morning once the immediate threat had passed.
By then the campground was all but deserted. Only a few tents were left, one of which appeared to have been abandoned in a hurry.
Mager said he wasn't worried about further surges.
''My relations always look after me, they're just up the road. It's made the holiday quite exciting.''
Mahinepua resident Wayne Johanson said late on Saturday water was almost up to the deck of the one-way bridge about 1km upstream, the highest he'd ever seen it.
He put that down to the tide, the cyclone and the volcano.
''I think it was a combination of events. It was the perfect storm,'' he said.
The first evacuations on Saturday evening took place at popular Ngāti Kuri-run campgrounds at Tapotupotu and Kapowairua/Spirits Bay, both in the Cape Reinga area, and Rarawa Beach, 55km north of Kaitaia.
Iwi representatives could not be contacted yesterday but the campgrounds are usually fully booked at this time of year.
It is understood campground guests were accommodated overnight by the iwi at safer locations inland.
MetService meteorologists advise that the risk of heavy rain has diminished as Cyclone Cody looks to track east of New Zealand.