Cyclone Gabrielle - Hawkes Bay Recovery

For many of us, the memories of the widespread catastrophic floods caused by heavy rainfall that struck Auckland and Northland at the end of January, followed by Cyclone Gabrielle's devastation in parts of the North Island, especially the regions of Hawkes Bay, Wairoa, and Gisborne two weeks later, may seem like distant events. However, for those living in the affected areas, the impact of these severe weather events lingers on each day.

In response to these disasters, churches and individuals from across New Zealand rallied together to provide much-needed support to those most affected. Through GCAid, churches, and individuals generously contributed to aid those in dire need. Immediately following the events, essential services such as hot meals and shelter were made available to those affected. Generators were provided to homes left without power, and food parcels and care packages were distributed to those grappling with the aftermath of the flooding.  We even helped to provide dry firewood and warm pyjamas for those that had lost everything.  We recently received this letter from one of the recipients of this support:

     With newspaper, dried corn fodder & broken up cardboard boxes, I’d light a fire      when the weather became much colder .To keep warm I sleep in the open planned kitchen-lounge area where the kent fire is situated, shutting all other doors.  The firewood has been an absolute godsend!  Tears well up as I write this, reflecting on the journey I have been on. To be able to have heat has been such an absolute luxury!!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

This emergency response played a vital role in helping many during the early stages of crisis.

Nonetheless, for many, the repercussions of these disasters persist. This month, a small team visited Hawkes Bay to assess the ongoing recovery efforts and to gain a deeper understanding of the needs of the affected communities. Bruce Stormer (GC3 Chair, The Anchor Church, Wellington), Lincoln Rout (iTeams, Rutland Street Church, Christchurch), Mark Jackson (Volunteering Hawkes Bay), and Michael Hanson (GC3 Executive Director, Orewa Community Church, Auckland) dedicated their time to meet with those actively involved in supporting the most affected families.

While the cities of Napier and Hastings quickly rebounded from the flooding, experiencing only extended power outages and minor water damage, the impact on many rural areas surrounding these cities has been life-altering and continues to be so. Many individuals have lost their homes and businesses and are struggling to rebuild their lives. Local churches, community groups, and financial supporters, including GCAid, have been instrumental in providing relief to those in greatest need.

Allow me to highlight four groups we had the privilege of meeting during our visit to Hawkes Bay:

1. Onekawa Bible Church, situated in Taradale, Napier, has been actively involved in the recovery efforts. We engaged with Phil Henderson (Senior Pastor) and Benji Carey (Associate Pastor) to discuss their church's response. Leveraging their church members' strong ties to the Esk Valley, one of the hardest-hit areas, they've dispatched teams to assist in the clean-up, provided donations to those in dire need, and offered a compassionate ear as people shared their stories. As a result, individuals have connected with the church community and started attending services, expressing their gratitude for the support received. OBC is committed to journeying with those most affected by this disaster.

Mates4Life, a community organization focusing on workplace suicide prevention.  They have been delivering a suicide awareness and prevention programmes including their "Kai and Korero" to workplaces across Hawke’s Bay. Suicide rates in the region have traditionally exceeded the national average, and they've experienced an increase since the flooding. We met with Bronnie Coory (Mates4Life Programme Coordinator) and Tyson Ataera (Kaiwhakahaere), who expressed their gratitude for the support offered to sponsor this program. "Kai and Korero" provides not only a BBQ in the workplace but also an opportunity for open conversations, helping share the emotional burden and fostering stronger team connections. Mates4Life's courses equip individuals with essential skills to recognize signs of distress, ultimately enhancing overall workplace well-being.

FamilyLife, a faith-based organization committed to strengthening marriages and families, recently hosted a "A Day Together" relationship seminar that drew over 60 couples from across Hawkes Bay, including some with no church background. Joseph Bailey, a FamilyLife Field Staff member, shared a remarkable story of a couple who were separated by the floodwaters in Esk Valley and miraculously survived. Sponsorship for this event was greatly appreciated, as it allowed them to offer reduced rates, encouraging more couples to attend and focus on their relationships.

Adopt & Care is a collaborative community project involving multiple churches in Hawkes Bay. Moved by the evident need and driven by a heartfelt commitment to bring hope to their community, these churches have joined forces to assist uninsured families affected by Cyclone Gabrielle in restoring their homes. Their goal is for local churches across Hawkes Bay to adopt and refurbish ten homes before Christmas, while also providing care and support to the families they are helping. Churches from around the country are invited to partner with Hawkes Bay churches in this project to collectively make a difference. Contact Miriam if you would like to support this project.

GCAid continues to allocate funds to the churches and community groups actively engaged in supporting the ongoing recovery efforts. Your support has been crucial in helping these communities rebuild their lives and find hope amidst the challenges they face.

Michael Hanson
Executive Director, GC3