Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Best of humanity as nature does its worst

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Steve Wyn-Harris surveys the devastation of Cyclone Gabrielle.
Hill country was beset by slips and scoured of its topsoil by the Cyclone Gabrielle flooding.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

A catastrophic life-changing event. There is no other way to describe the devastating impact Cyclone Gabrielle will have had  on many people’s lives and livelihoods.

From people in rented houses who live from week to week on a modest wage who have lost all their possessions and now have absolutely nothing.

To home owners who have seen their house, which has had all their years of hard graft and saving, destroyed.

To horticulturalists who have watched their crops, their vines and trees ruined, like a bad lambing storm but one in which your capital stock ewes died as well.

To dairy farmers who have been isolated with no power to run the shed and have had to hand-milk and then dump the milk or dry their cows off in February.

To hill country sheep and beef farmers who’ve lost homes, stock, infrastructure and land.

And, of course, lives have been lost as well.

It has been a very bad event for individuals, communities, towns and cities and will take a long time to recover from.

During tough times we often tell ourselves that this too will pass, but for areas that have been repeatedly hammered by these rain events over the past 12 months, it will be difficult not to worry and be anxious that yet another rain event will come.

My district was fortunate to be on the southern edge of this cyclone, though I’ve heard there is bad damage further south of us at coastal Tararua and Castlepoint.

The hill country around me has had slipping and infrastructure damage and I’ve got trees down and culverts washed out, and fencing and floodgates along waterways have been blown out.

But nothing that can’t be fixed.

It leaves me with that natural guilt when I have so many friends and people I know and don’t know who have been so more badly impacted.

Our road had a meet-up in my woolshed a few days after Gabrielle and over a few drinks agreed we had nothing like the damage further north and could at least still function as farms with roading access intact.

But the same can’t be said for many other districts all up the East Coast of the North Island and further afield.

That lack of the ability to get provisions and materials in and stock and people out when it is really needed is making a difficult situation much worse.

But let us also mention the good things that have been happening during this event and in the aftermath.

Thank goodness for helicopters and their pilots and crew.

For Elon Musk’s Starlink, which has been used to reconnect isolated districts and has shown that it has a real future for isolated and distant communities.

For old-fashioned radio that has shown its relevance when more modern communications fail.

Appreciation to all of those roading workers, power company linesmen, communication experts, engineers and the like for working huge hours under difficult situations to assist others.

And thanks for the kindness of strangers.

To the many who have donated and volunteered to help others in their hour of need.

Finally, it is obvious that taking care of yourself and others is crucial at any time but particularly in stressful times like this.

It is critical to look after yourself because you are no use to anyone if you have an accident or burn out.

And watch for signs of stress and struggling to cope in others.

We live in an improved world now where it is the right thing to ask for help if you need it or offer it or seek it for others if you believe they would benefit.

Kia Kaha.

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