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Bishops report on Napier flooding

Bishop of Tairāwhiti Archbishop Don Tamihere and Bishop of Waiapu Andrew Hedge have reported that Anglican parishes and institutions based in Napier have avoided major damage in the recent deluge and are now focused on supporting flood-affected families.

Julanne Clarke-Morris  |  12 Nov 2020

The two Anglican Bishops with oversight for churches and schools in the area where major flooding hit Napier City this week have reported that most Anglican parishes have experienced only minor leaks and no major damage has been found.

Napier City declared a civil defence emergency this week after its highest recorded rainfall in a 24 hour period for 57 years, as 242.4mm of rain fell over the day and night of Monday 9 November.

Archbishop Don Tamihere reported that apart from disruption to a handful of day students, both Te Aute College and Hukarere College staff and students are safe from the impact of the flooding and able to carry on as usual.

Some parishioners in Te Pīhopatanga o Te Tairāwhiti have reported water damage to homes and properties, but none have suffered the slips or major damage that some Napier South and Taradale residents have experienced. Apart from managing with power cuts and waste water restrictions Tairāwhiti Anglicans are doing well.

“I think our people have been pretty blessed comparatively. A lot of others have been significantly affected and our aroha is very much with them at this time.” said Archbishop Don.

Bishop Andrew Hedge reported that most Anglican churches and vicarages and Waiapu Diocesan buildings in Napier have sustained only minor damage due to water leakage.

The Waiapu Cathedral of St John has sustained some water damage due to leaks and blocked downpipes, said Bishop Andrew, but nothing requiring more than a thorough clean out, including drying a sizeable area of carpet and wooden floor soaked by the water leaking in during this week’s downpours.

Bishop Andrew was quick to point out the Cathedral flooding is of little consequence compared to the damage to local people’s homes in parts of Napier South and Taradale.

He is in a good position to tell the difference, because this week as the rain and floods hit their peak, Bishop Andrew was spending his minister’s Monday night off on duty as an Ambulance Officer in Napier with St John’ Ambulance.

Bishop Andrew says ambulance crews working across Hawke’s Bay (Napier, Hastings and Waipukurau) had to carry on normal duties and responses through the night in very difficult circumstances.

“Navigating around Napier’s streets to reach patients throughout the night was complicated by the road closures and deep flooding on the roads that made it very difficult to access addresses by ambulance.”

“Often we needed to make several attempts to reach an address before finding a passable route.”

Bishop Andrew reported one ambulance crew was shifted into a 4x4 vehicle to get to patients in the hardest areas to reach, not only due to high waters, but because the streets became dangerous once littered with abandoned vehicles. Many drivers had left cars idle in flood waters once it was unsafe to continue, or when the vehicle had stopped working.

“On many occasions through the night we found ourselves wading knee deep through flood waters to reach patients to provide them medical care, reassurance and in some cases transport to safe accommodation.”

Bishop Andrew, who is also chaplain to the Order of St John, said the emergency services in Napier worked closely with each other throughout the night and especially with the team from Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence.

Priest Missioner in the parish of Napier South Rev Leo Te Kira reported minimum damage to church buildings, and echoed his Bishop’s concern for the most affected families in the worst affected suburbs of his parish.

“Only one hall amongst all of our churches has suffered minor leaks in the torrential rain, but we know that the downpour has left people from at least 35 households in this parish without homes to go back to.”

Bishop Andrew said reports coming through from parishioners in Taradale, Cathedral and Westshore show most people have not be badly affected, although there caution remains with homes that may still be prone to slips on Napier Hill and Bluff Hill.

“Our focus now is on supporting those who need our direct support through parish networks.” He said.

“We are all appreciative of the work and support that Napier City Council, Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence, FENZ, NZ Police, St John Ambulance and the NZ Defence Force are providing for our community at this difficult time.”