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THINGS had been quiet at Wairoa's Riverside Motor Camp since Cyclone Gabrielle blew through, floodwaters bowling caravans and wrecking the surrounding grounds.
But cleaned-up units meant that, three months later, there were still enough residents to put together a lush morning-tea shout for the Quality Roading and Services staff and subcontractors working on site last month.
“The team have been working here for weeks and we're so grateful for all they are doing,” says Sharron Solomon who, with husband Bill Dicken, has leased the campground for 23 years.
“To all of us, they are real heroes.”
Sharron is a bit of a hero herself, credited for raising the alarm in the early hours of February 14, 2023 when the Wairoa River breached its banks.
Getting up just before 3.30am “for a wee” she automatically checked the security camera and, to her horror, saw water flooding into the kitchen block just below her and Bill's on-site home.
Having been warned a storm was coming the couple had asked those who could to leave the day before but there were still 10 caravans on the riverside park, plus occupants in the units and neighbouring accommodation.
“There was no phone, no nothing, so one of our residents Grant Bishop, a former firefighter, bolted down to the fire station to set off the emergency siren and that was the way most people found out the flood was coming,” Sharron says.
“There was nothing else we could do, so we just sat here and watched huge waves washing logs and debris up the river.”
Forward planning meant everyone was safe and the couple lost just two caravans, along with the pricey semi-permanent cabin they had planned to retire to “when our time comes”.
But also gone was Sharron's brother's Harley Davidson motorcycle – “I still think about that!” -- and the grounds were a mess.
“Since then QRS and their subcontractors have been here digging out silt, raising the land to help prevent future flooding, and installing new drainage and piping,” Sharron says.
“They've also replaced the power boxes that were all under water . . . they gave a mighty hiss when they were turned on!”
While the couple leases the campground, it is actually owned by Wairoa District Council which has undertaken to restore areas like the kitchen and ablution blocks that are critical to its operation.
And Sharron and Bill have been doing their bit, too.
“We've both been working really hard to try to restore the property . . . poor Billy has been living on the end of a shovel,” Sharron says.
“But it would all seem hopeless if it wasn't for the team taking care of the big stuff. This is our life, we love it here, and we're determined to be doing it all again by summer.”
21 June 2023
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