Tricia Hewlett Art

Wildlife Artist

Mar 15, 2022

A Summer Flood

My studio has been closed all summer. I have missed the wonderful visitors who call in and share a cuppa on the deck. It all started on Dec 15th. 

Entrance to our place post Cyclone Ruby.

​Cyclone Ruby stalled over the Eastern Bays of Banks Peninsula. It rained. It rained and it just kept on raining. 
By late afternoon we were flooding. Streams were roaring into torrents and slips were falling. It got worse as the evening came. The water rolled up my 240 square metre vegetable garden, the greenhouses, vegetable cages, garden shed, garden art, the garden edging and all of my beautiful recycled totara post fence. It all disappeared downstream and out to sea. 
We watched the telephone pole and the power pole very gently slide into the torrent and leave our valley. 

Video: YouTube Flood Viewed From our Kitchen Window

​Looking out the kitchen window I could see Fantail Falls valley disintegrate and fall onto the valley floor. Rocks and trees were tumbled in the waves that fell from the valley each time another gully gave way. It was terrifying.

We were trapped. Water covered the valley above the house and below the house.  With no power, no phone and no mobile reception we couldn’t call for help so we packed ready to evacuate to the chook house with plastic sheets due to the leaking roof, sleeping bags, a cooker, a pot, some teabags and some apples. I put our important things on the top bunk then walked through my studio. I looked around at the art on the walls, the art products on the shelves and the unfinished art on the easel. I turned my back knowing I may not see it again. We stood at the door and watched the water rise ready to escape out the back door if the water got to the doorstep.

As quickly as the water rose, it fell again. It no longer threatened the house. The kakariki aviary was still standing. The metre of water that had be gushing through it dropped down to a few inches and the structure stopped shuddering. The water was still rushing in a 40 metre wide torrent from the hedge in front of the house right across the valley. We were lucky Cyclone Ruby had dropped most of her moisture. She continued to rain through the night and into the next day but the flood was ever so slowly receding.

The next day we surveyed the damage. What a mess!

I’m writing this three months later. Roading crews have been amazing getting us access and they have been out here ever since improving it. As long as it doesn’t rain I can now get my little “town” car out. Our road is still closed to non-residents, and we have to allow an extra half hour travel time as the crews move diggers and trucks to let us go by. 
Independent Line Services ‘planted’ a new pole and got our power up and running in a week. 
It took Spark five weeks to get their service folk to string our phone line along a fence and through some trees so we had communication again. Sadly, it is still in that same state with my partner having to patch it when the neighbour’s sheep rub against it breaking the connection.
After two and a half months we got a septic system again. We could wash dishes without having to take the bucket outside to empty and joy of joys, we could flush the loo. 
We got the water running again so we could start cleaning up. There will be ongoing issues and we may need a new supply, but friends have been great at letting us “borrow” water when needed. 
We’ve had days and weeks of diggers on the property clearing debris and teams clearing fences. There’s still more to do, but it is beginning to come together.
Civil Defence turned up seven days after the event, followed by the news media. Since then we have had site visits from insurers, assessors, building inspectors, structural engineers, contractors, Ecan, road crews, Council, Chorus, Downers, electrician, the list feels endless.

Other visitors have included the wildlife that surrounds us. Despite the pain of losing so many critters, especially in the streams, we still have an abundance of wildlife visitors.

We have a long way to go to be past the flood, but some things are wonderful. My partner cleaned out the slosh and slop from the bottom of the kakariki house when the waters went down. He tipped the debris in a washout across the road. A few weeks later tiny sunflower seedlings popped up. Despite them germinating so late in the summer, they all flowered with their bright, sunny, smiley faces and we have been enjoying stepping out the gate – no longer shocked by the devastation but greeted by the bright sunflowers.  

Prior to Cyclone Ruby’s disruptive visit, I had been preparing for a busy summer of studio visits. I plan to be open again in the spring and would love you to come out for a Studio Visit and a cuppa on the deck. 

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