The state of emergency in Tairāwhiti has now been lifted, after more than a week of constant, and often torrential, rain.
MetService said Gisborne had one of its five wettest Marches in almost 90 years, and Te Puia Springs had its wettest month in five years.
Many people had to be evacuated and there was serious damage to roads and properties, especially around Tokomaru Bay.
The small coastal community, about 90 minutes north of Gisborne, was seriously damaged and the highway in the town remains cut off, due to a broken bridge.
The decision to come out of the state of emergency was made by Tairāwhiti Civil Defence group controller David Wilson in consultation with mayor Rehette Stoltz.
“There is still plenty going on across the region, but it is now time to move our focus into the recovery phase,” Stoltz said in a media release.
The weather event led to the declaration of a state of emergency in the early hours of 23 March and then extended on Tuesday this week.
Stoltz said it had been a tough time for many across Tairāwhiti with record rainfall, rivers reaching levels that have meant evacuation and a huge amount of damage on the roads and to properties.
“I ask that people be patient while our contractors continue their work to reconnect our region.”
Council chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann said although the state of emergency had been lifted, there was still support for communities across Tairāwhiti, should they need it.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us yet. There is a huge amount of clean-up to be done which will require people power and machinery – some of which may need to come from outside of the district.”
She estimated the full recovery could take up to 24 months to fix properly.
“The wide-ranging extent of the damage to the region and the effect this event has had on critical infrastructure, bridges, roads and properties makes it very challenging.”
Thatcher Swann was hopeful the region would receive government funding to help with the rebuild.
Nearly 50 local roads across the region remain shut.
The council said it was hoping to have roads reopened to the forestry and agricultural industry on Monday.
Tairāwhiti Civil Defence group controller David Wilson said it was “disappointing” to hear that some trucks were using the roads, despite being asked not to.
“We have been in touch with police who have contacted those concerned, and they will be taking it from here,” he said.
“We are working to open a number of roads on Monday so the forestry and agricultural industry can start moving again.
“We are asking for caution and patience on the roads as we open them. Many are still extremely vulnerable and we are working to improve them over the coming days to make sure they hold up as people begin to move on them again.
“Please be mindful though – there is a huge amount of damage across a very sodden and saturated region.”
Farmers were being asked to liaise with the council around their movements at least a day before they needed access for stock or supplies.
“We are prioritising routes so trucks can get back out there, but it takes time and patience,” Wilson said.
He acknowledged it had been a tough time for farmers who are keen to move stock, have had sale days cancelled due to Covid-19, and now faced impassable roads across the district.
He said there was a push to have as many roads as possible open for Monday, with the council updating its website with the latest information.
“We update this daily but we need our contractors to be able to do their jobs safely,” Wilson said.
“It is also about the safety of motorists too – the ground is saturated and it simply isn’t safe for them on some of our roads.”
– Call the Gisborne District Council on 0800 653 800 24/7 or through its [www.gdc.co.nz website]
– Any damage can be reported by filing a request for service by using the GDC FIX app on any smartphone, email via [email protected] or via the eFix service on the council’s website