Today marks the first anniversary of the Edgecumbe flood that caused devastation to a town that had already experienced its fair share of natural disasters.
A service is being held today, hosted by the five churches of the town. Tomorrow there will be a gathering to acknowledge the anniversary of April 6, and Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne has encouraged all flood-impacted residents from throughout the district to attend.
Bonne said council-elected members felt a sense of relief from those people who had been able to return to their Edgecumbe homes and equally appreciated the frustration of those who were still working through repairs.
"We recognise the difficulties the directly-affected residents and homeowners have faced; and the impact on Edgecumbe businesses and the wider community caused by so many people being relocated during the rebuild process," he said.
"As of yesterday, 70 per cent of the 305 homes damaged by the storm and flood have been repaired. That means families and individuals have been able to 'go home' to 212 properties.
"That also means another 93 homes have still to be reoccupied. Of those, 78 properties have building under way and are at various stages of the repair, rebuild or sale process.
"Assisting the remaining home-owners to move forward is the current top priority for the Council-led Recovery Team."
Whakatane District Council recovery manager Barbara Dempsey described the past 12 months as extraordinary.
"I would like to recognise the hundreds of people who have contributed to the recovery process," Dempsey said.
The recovery team had played an active role in the ongoing efforts to rebuild Edgecumbe.
The Recovery Navigator Service was introduced to help residents access a wide range of services to support their stage of recovery and had, to date, contacted 323 residents and was providing ongoing support to about 55 individuals and families.
Te Tari Awhina – the community hub established at Edgecumbe - had served as a base for central government agencies, NAVA, the Liveable Homes Project, Te Tohu o te Ora o Ngati Awa health services, visits by the Residential Advisory Service and Navigator Services.
"The dedicated band of Edgecumbe Library volunteers have assisted recovery staff. Since late October over 170 Welcome Home Packs have been distributed via Te Tari Awhina," Dempsey said.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council had also completed a significant amount of work as a result of the stop bank breach.
In addition to the high-priority Edgecumbe and College Rd stopbank works, the regional
council identified 520 other locations across the region requiring repairs.
Those repairs are expected to take years and have been prioritised based on risk to lives and livelihoods, disruptions and lifelines.
Contractors had been busy. Almost 100 high-priority repairs had been completed or are under way. The repair bill would be in excess of $45 million, a cost shared by central government, council and insurance claims.
An Edgecumbe Community Plan continued to develop under the guidance of its oversight committee and strategic co-ordinator Vicky Richards.
Feedback from community representatives was used to prioritise ideas that came from a community workshop in September last year.
"The oversight committee is made up of representatives from 10 groups and organisations from Edgecumbe who are helping to shape the plan," Richards said.
"We've met four times over the past couple of months and confirmed the key goals for Edgecumbe. The next step will be coming up with a draft plan."
She said once the plan had been finalised, the committee would be supported by the Whakatane District Council.
"Some groups will be taking on projects, other projects will be done in partnership."