National | Cyclone Gabrielle

Pātaua whānau worried about access to homes through cyclone-damaged road

Following Cyclone Gabrielle's devastation, 15 whānau in Pātaua, Northland, have been denied access to their properties for nearly two months.

The private road to Pātaua peninsula, which is influenced by the tide, has been washed out, leaving only partial access to dwellings, and whānau are becoming increasingly concerned about the risks of driving on the road.

Northland has experienced extraordinary flooding in the past couple of months. It is the effects of this extreme weather that has affected whānau living here.

For kuia Isabella Mehana, the road has become a hazard, and she feels unsafe on it.

"I've been living in town for a month because I am scared to drive on the roads that I have driven on all my life"

"I'm 60 years old and I have never seen the road this bad. The cyclone absolutely destroyed our road."

Two months on - and progress to fix the road is slow.

$1 million repair

During Cyclone Gabrielle whānau staying on the peninsula had to make a decision on whether to stay or risk the tidal road, part of which had been washed out. Ngaire-Ani Mehana, who stays on the road, says she is so worried about the dangers, she has only recently made the return home, spending more than five weeks in town.

"There are a lot of young families, a lot of children that live out here and it is hard for the parents to judge the tide.

"Being a young mum with my daughter, it was safer for us to be in town. If it's too wet out here we can't leave and the day that I decided for us to leave, I actually got my dad to come and get us."

Work has begun to fix the road, with whānau ideally wanting to tarseal the road, which is enormously expensive. Estimates for that are near $1m and the whānau are in discussions with other landowners to create a bypass for their road that doesn't have to deal with the part of the road that is susceptible to tidal flooding.

But Mehana says it's an enormous amount for whānau to have to stump up for and, because it is on private land, it's hard for whānau to get funding for the road.

"Every week our young ones are running raffles and our whānau are helping but it's only a small amount. We are worried for our children who have to travel to get to school and it's not safe."