• Video: Regional Council Chair recounts 'life-changing' moment floodwater inundated home

Video: Regional Council Chair recounts 'life-changing' moment floodwater inundated home

Hawke's Bay Regional Council Chair Hinewai Ormsby has been back in her home in Waiohiki only two weeks since Cyclone Gabrielle devastated her property a year ago.  

Reminders of what happened on the morning of February 14 are all around her. 

The Papakāinga she lives on with her husband and two young children, and extended family, was inundated with floodwater and silt. 

"Overnight the rain was very heavy where I was in my home at Waiohiki, and so it was hard to get any sleep knowing that the heavy rain was continuous. It wasn't until I received a phone call about declaring an emergency. At the same time, we could hear horns from cars go off in our community to warn people to wake up, and that was just on daybreak. So that's when we knew for us it was very serious."

At about 6am that morning, with water coming from three directions, they decided to self-evacuate. First to the highest point of their driveway, and then to the Waiohiki Marae across the road. 

"We do know that a stream used to run through there and we know that we are at a lower part in Waiohiki, so it does make sense when there's so much water that it needs to flow somewhere. But to see it run over your yard, your section, through the house, it is very confronting and difficult."

Despite her own personal situation, Ormsby found solace in helping her community, particularly in the 40 hours before an army unimog was able to evacuate them. 

"The Army picked us up from Waiohiki and took us to Hastings. It was surreal going along the expressway, seeing all the cattle, and sheep that had been almost glued to the fences." 

Water levels reached about a metre in her house and she lost "pretty much" everything. 

"Furniture, anything that was on the ground had gone, but we were able to save some treasures, and our Korowai, our family cloak, some of my taonga if they were high enough. Obviously, my marriage certificate was too low, so that's gone.

"But my children were amazing. When they thought about what had been lost, they said: 'Well, they're just things, we'll make lists and we can replace those. Those are all replaceable'. So I think that's such a great mindset." 

Her prevailing memories of that time are the "incredible way in which everyone pulled together". 

"We had support, we had the goodwill of other agencies come in, we had volunteerism like we've never seen before. And it was absolutely incredible the amount of goodwill and aroha shared across the region. So that's probably what strikes me as a fond memory within those first few months."