• Video: Call was for 100 volunteers and 400 came - Michael Ngahuka remembers Cyclone Gabrielle

Video: Call was for 100 volunteers and 400 came - Michael Ngahuka remembers Cyclone Gabrielle

Destiny Church Pastor Michael Ngahuka called for 100 volunteers to help in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle – 400 turned up.

This soon rose to 1200.

After the Cyclone hit one year ago, Ngahuka realised that help was needed urgently. He contacted Destiny Church national leader Brian Tamaki and asked for the call to be put out through the church network and via Man Up, a programme designed to help men dealing with abuse, addiction and other issues.

Speaking to Hawke’s Bay App today, Ngahuka said he realised early on in the morning that the situation was bad.

“I went on Facebook and I saw a friend who lives right in the middle of Esk Valley, and he was going live and he was on the roof. This was around about 5:00 AM by that time, and the water already was already up by the gutter under the ease of his home. When I saw that, I knew this was bad. That's when I became first aware of the reality of the situation.”

He says he woke his family, packed his trailer with essentials like generators and headed to an evacuation centre at St Joseph’s Māori Girls’ College.

“I basically unloaded my trailer with the generator just so people could have power and put on a hot cup and try and support everyone. Pulled out my radio. I had eight batteries, so that was good for a couple of days. I put it in the centre on stage and just blast it on all the radio stations, just to at least give some people some peace of mind.”

“Because as you can imagine, during that time, some people were there, they weren't too sure where their family members were. It was a scary time for everyone. That's what I did, and just wrapped around the school there and helped in any way I could.”

He says that as soon as he could, got in contact with his congregation.

“When the bridges opened, I got on my motorbike and shot straight across over to Hastings and rallied up all my community networks over there and pulled them over to Napier.”

“The first home we went to was a home in Eskdale. This was probably three days in. I took about maybe 40 people, men and a woman there with shovels. We went straight there and helped my friend who were looking for their grandfather at the time through his home.”

“But we went there, we didn't want to be a nuisance. We're very sensitive and understand. We just wanted to be there even if it was to make a cup of tea or just hug them. We ended up getting out of our shovels and just digging out a pathway for their car to work on their land and stuff like that.”

Ngahuka says he soon realised that more help was needed.

“I made a call to Pastor Brian Tamaki, and I said, ‘Hey, I don't know what's getting portrayed out there, but we could use a hundred men down here just to come down for a couple of weeks or a week or weekend, and we can get out there and really help our community.’ I had a chat with him, and then he put the call out to the church if anyone could come down. Within the week, 400 people came.”

“I was thinking a hundred we can look after. Then I got a phone call, ‘Oh, 400 are coming.’ I was like, ‘Where are they going to sleep?’ Because all of the marae were full. People were homeless to a degree.”

He says a call to then Hastings District Councillor Henare O’Keefe resulted in the Regional Sports Park being used as a base.

“Not only did 400 people come, but 1200.”

Ngahuka says that his role was to navigate the 1200 strong army of volunteers into the community.

“What really came in handy is because I'm from here and my wife and family and community networks, we knew exactly where to send these groups of people.”

Watch the accompanying video to see the full interview with Pastor Michael Ngahuka.