MY heart goes out to all of the whanau that have been affected by the floods. I live in Whangaehu and most of my neighbours' houses have been flooded - many, if not all of them, for the third or fourth time in the past 11 years.
We need a long-term solution for the people who live in the flood zone in Whangaehu, Whanganui, Waitotara and those areas in the Te Tai Hauauru electorate that, if not flooded now, could be in the future.
Government and local authorities need to work with families affected by the floods to work out a long-term solution. If this means relocating families, then government agencies need to be working together to look at how these whanau can be assisted. Some whanau in Whangaehu say their homes are worthless now and their situation is dire.
It's not difficult to join the dots to climate change, which means more extreme weather events. The floods of 2004 were said to be a once in 100-year flood, 2006 was said to be a once in 50-year flood and it would be unwise to put a number on the latest flood. But given we are in the throes of climate change, there is much work to be done to mitigate future extreme weather events to keep us safe and above the floodwaters.
Our Whanganui River did its job - it receives the water from the tributaries that flow into it and rushes it out to sea. But with all this rain our precious topsoil is washed off the land. This is another area that urgently requires attention to keep the soil on the hills in our regions. In these times of torrential rains, the high country hills stripped of trees are not sustainable. We need to be planting more native trees to keep our topsoils on the hills.
These latest floods have had an enormous impact on the lives of many whanau and it was important their immediate needs were taken care of. I want to acknowledge Nga Rauru Kitahi, Whanganui and Nga Wairiki - Ngati Apa who have established the Putea Aroha Emergency Relief Fund for affiliated whanau who have been directly affected by the floods. I understand that many whanau have been assisted. The three iwi have set up a collection point at Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority, where they are accepting donations of furniture. The iwi immediately set up these initiatives and did not wait around for the Government to step in.
I also want to acknowledge the emergency services, local authorities, civil defence, and the many workers that worked through the night to clear roads and to restore electricity supply. And then there were the many volunteers who stepped up to help clear the silt from roads and people's homes. We saw a community in action who came out in force to take care of their neighbourhoods and wherever they could help. It was not easy given the health and safety issues the civil defence had to contend with. Through all of this, I join many of you in the acknowledgment that there was no loss of life.
Adrian Rurawhe is MP for Te Tai Hauauru and Labour spokesman for Civil Defence and Emergency Management