It was a day the people of Ngongotahā will never forget.
The skies opened up and nearly 52mm of rain fell in just one hour on the morning of April 29, 2018. Over the coming hours that figure more than tripled as flood waters ripped through houses and wreaked havoc. One year on, Leah Tebbutt looks back on that fateful day and visits some of the families affected.
K urt den Hertog and I meet with a large screen door between us.
A large pallet sign sitting outside his house with all the colours of the rainbow splashed over it has caught my eye and I smile warmly hoping to gain some insight.
The screen door opens and I am told to keep my shoes on as den Hertog chuckles, "I'll have to take my shoes off too."
The warm air is comforting as I step inside escaping the cool autumn temperature.
Anyone who drives past his Western Rd home will be all too familiar with the bold letters outlining his fear of flood waters terrorising his home but on the day I visit the nearby Ngongotahā stream is hidden by bush. Heavy rain is a distant memory.
I ask him about the sign.
"I leave the sign there for the community feel,'' he says.
"I felt somebody had to do something but in a couple of months I might change it and say 'thank you Rotorua, you did a perfect job.'"
Den Hertog and wife Rita built their house 12 years ago with the help of their builder son-in-law.
"He rung me and said 'would you spend another $15,000 to put the house higher up' and I said 'sure go ahead'."
That $15,000 saved them a year ago. It meant water couldn't quite enter his home. Instead it lapped at the edge of his deck and swallowed the back yard.
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"It was quite something,'' he says, before talking about how they helped others.
"We did anything we could to help because people were devastated."
He leads me into his garage, proudly introducing me to three birds he's bred and tells me about how he lost some birds in the floods.
"Some pheasants got trapped in their feeding boxes, the water just got too high and they couldn't get out.
"We hopefully don't get another downpour like that."
His wife walks in and talks about how she hates the sign her husband is so fond off, but yet it has sat on the grass for close to a year.
"It was really a sad occasion but I have no fear that it will come again," she says.
"Every time it rains he gets worried and thinks the stream might overflow, but I say all those years it hasn't done. It was just extremely bad weather."
A round the corner, the floods hit a house on Oakland Place where birthday celebrations were slowly coming to a close.
As guests left, water arrived.
"It got to over a metre in our house. We could just see the tip of the fence," Belinda Akurangi said.
She points to her back fence from the kitchen table over 15 metres away from where she first caught a glimpse of the wall of water approaching.
"We kept moving the cars higher up on the section but in 20 minutes it had hit the house."
There wasn't a word that came to mind as she thought of how she felt that day.
Three children were still dressed in princess costumes from the fifth birthday so her priority was getting them changed and keeping them safe.
"You were just on automatic pilot.
"We tried to sandbag the house but by then it had gone through the walls."
Husband Smithy piled the kids on to the back of his ute while they looked on as floorboards lifted and all their possessions bobbed around the house.
A duck boat saved them but the couple only returned home after more than four months away.
"I think that was the hardest part. You weren't building a house of your dreams," Belinda said.
"We all had meltdown moments but we got there in the end."
One year on, it is hard for the memory of that day to not overshadow the sixth birthday celebrations.
As conversations flow around the table the couple's three children spark with memories of the day they lost everything, which Smithy confirms is a regular occurrence.
"They had a few issues but I guess the emotions build up like they do for us but they seem resilient."
R esilient is how you could describe many of the locals in the area.
As I drive through the quiet streets, it appears just like any other subdivision north of Rotorua.
Empty plots of land sit still waiting for people to build and surprisingly, after the bout of devastation that tore through the area, only one for-sale sign can be seen.
I chat to the residents and some show their courage and determination to remain in a place they call home but others are nervous as winter approaches with the promise of wet weather.
Growing up in the area has made Steve Brake defiant.
"I won't move because of water."
But he admits the day the water rushed into his property was a day that scared him easily.
"You've got to try and stay strong, but once the water started going down that was when I started getting teary-eyed, realising that we were all safe."
"That night we slept at home and every now and then I'd put my foot down and touch the carpet to check, yep it's still dry."
New carpet and a smudge of mud under the heat pump's outside unit is what keeps the memory of the flood fresh in his mind and now every time it rains he tries to keep everyone's mind at ease, even though he is not so certain himself.
W itnessing rooves poking out of a lake of water was the moment Miriam Hewson knew her house on Oakland Place would be in trouble.
"I drove up to Hall Rd in total disbelief.
"I couldn't see our house so I was unsure how high the water was and you start thinking about everything you had in the house.
"We were able to get in the next morning, opened the front door and were instantly hit with that awful smell."
She said silt covered everything and even the carpets had uplifted but she and her young family were able to move back in by mid-August.
"It's like it never happened to be honest."
T he Pollard's home on Pioneer Rd is only new. Jenny and Elliot picked the section for the view that looks over the reserve after years of living on a lifestyle block.
Jenny shows me the empty section across the road where the water made its grand entrance. She thought her house would be safe thanks to the retaining wall which surrounds the property.
She was wrong.
"We were sitting here and just watching the water come up thinking, 'surely it can't come up too high because of the retaining wall?'
"But I was watching the caravan and I turned and said to Elliot, that caravan's moving.
"And sure enough, it started floating and ended up down the road there."
The caravan travelled 100 metres and eventually stopped due to the fencing at the reserve but was spun like a rubber duck as the rush of water travelled down towards Oakland Place.
The couple has a new caravan now and were able to return home after a few months but Jenny attributes that to the support from her family.
Her grandson sits down next to me and recounts the moment he had to escape through the window in his parents' house on Oakland Place, the street residents can't deny as the worst affected.
ohn Healey agrees after being faced with more than $300,000 worth of damage.
The couple replaced everything from their lounge suite to the walls and are thankful their house was steel framed, so they didn't have to replace that too.
"In 10 minutes there was a foot of water in our house, it came that quick that it was hitting the back wall of our bedroom and my wife's shoes were floating down the passage," Healey said.
At 3.40pm he had seen surface flooding on the road when returning home from town but said twenty minutes late his wife, Muriel was evacuated when 275mm of water went through the house.
The following morning when the pair returned they couldn't open the door as bedroom furniture had floated down and wedged the door shut.
"There was a tidemark on the walls that showed the level the water had reached, which was 1.32 metres or equivalent to 232 cubic metres of water in the house."
The thing that disturbs Healey is knowing how fast it all disappeared.
"You could tell the water had receded very, very quickly because if the water had gone out gently the sediment would have settled. But the bath water had been sucked out that quickly the sediment was in striations."
He was told their wooden furniture had to go due to the contaminated water which meant saying goodbye to pieces the couple had brought over from the United Kingdom 44 years before.
"I'm that sort of person that thinks, it's happened okay, there is nout you can do about it but it still plays on the back of your mind.
"We had a heavy rain warning the other day and it didn't eventuate but you're worried - especially at this time of year."
On April 29, 2018, a state of emergency was declared after 51.8mm of rain fell between 10am and 11am with a total of 167.8 mm of water recorded by Niwa between 4am Saturday to 6pm Sunday.
It was nearly 1.5 times the April monthly normal in 38 hours resulting in the Ngongotahā stream bursting its bank and surging towards the subdivision creating a puddle kilometres wide.
94 homes were issued with insanitary notices and nearly 1000 residents also registered with the Civil Defence welfare team.
Most residents are back in their homes, although four insanitary notices are still active.