An unprecedented weather event has completely saturated the upper North Island over the last few days.
Record-breaking amounts of rain have submerged streets and parks, caused landslides and damaged infrastructure, and claimed the lives of at least four people.
The event has also sparked backlash from Aucklanders over how mayor Wayne Brown and public officials handled their communications.
Speaking to The Front Page podcast, Herald science reporter Jamie Morton explains that a confluence of weather events conspired to dump an unprecedented amount of rain on the upper North Island of New Zealand.
“It was Auckland’s wettest day in history,” Morton says.
“You basically had a summer’s worth of rain in one day. Three Januaries were basically stuck together. You’re talking about 250mm of rain in some locations, which is just huge. Auckland Airport received more than 70mm in just one hour on Friday night, which explains why terminals were put underwater. As of yesterday, rainfall for Auckland was running at a whopping 769 per cent of its January normal. That’s nearly 40 per cent of what the region would receive in an entire year.”
As this rain lashed the country, emergency services were quickly overwhelmed by the sheer extent of callouts being made across the city.
Herald deputy editor Hamish Fletcher was in the newsroom trying to make sense of the chaos as tips started pouring in.
Insurers estimate that the storm could have caused up to $1 billion in damages across the city - a figure that Fletcher explains doesn’t quantify the human stories of loved ones dying or families losing everything they own.
“There’s not one story that you could pick out among all of that to say that this person’s impact is worse than others,” Fletcher says, pointing out that there were also four people who lost their lives.
Amid the escalating disaster, criticism was levelled at Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown, who was accused of not declaring a state of emergency fast enough as the floodwaters were rising.
“There are serious questions to be asked of the communications from the Mayor’s office, from emergency management about the timing of the state of the emergency. There wasn’t even an update that that was something that was being considered. The Mayor should have seen things on social media and on the NZ Herald website, and to my mind at least, put in some communications.”
The reality is that the stormy conditions are far from over, with weather forecasts suggesting that the city of Auckland is in for another wet night.
So what do the next few days hold in store for battered Aucklanders? What lessons can be taken from this event? How do we prepare for the future? And does this mean that we need to start taking climate change far more seriously?
Listen to the full special edition of The Front Page podcast to hear how things went so wrong and what needs to happen next.