By Karla Lee, Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce CEO
There is a lot of speculation currently on the condition of Hawke's Bay, so here’s a summary of the situation:
Only pockets of Hawke's Bay were devastated. These pockets were primarily homes and growers situated near rivers and surrounding hills.
Part of the reason for the devastation was due to our river banks (stop banks) giving way.
Bridges were swept away between parts of Napier and Hastings and surrounding rural areas;
Eskdale – our road to Auckland is closed (this is our artery for most of our trucks for re-export and manufacturing). We now need to go to Palmerston North to get to Auckland. A 5.5 hour trip is now 9 hours.
Reason around the bridge destruction appears to be water volumes and slash from forestry – there needs to be legislation changes preventing forestry slash.
Access between the two cities only has 2 possible roads and 1 of those is only for essential/emergency management people. There is major congestion that is having an impact on business and wellbeing.
Power – mostly Napier but other areas went without power for approximately 1 week. No Wi-Fi, no internet, no mobile service for approximately 2-3 days. This has affected business in many ways, especially our primary industries and SMEs who live hand to mouth.
Wellbeing – people are fragile. They have been through a natural disaster and are connected to people who have lost lives, livelihoods, homes.
Crime – there has been increased activity however we do not have gangs running through town shooting people;
We are more on alert as have heard stories and admit to the increase but there is an over exaggeration of crime.
Crime is not my lane but if the need for backup is needed then bring them in.
So that is the broad overview of the situation, what are we doing?
The Chamber team is ringing every member with a questionnaire asking if they are operating and what is their need. Let’s ask businesses what they need first before making up solutions of our own.
HB Tourism are also ringing their members and we will share our data.
I am working with the Regional Economic Development Agency board who have only just been established – we don’t have an actual agency yet.
I have connected with our local iwi Ngati Kahungunu of which I personally belong. My plan is to include iwi in the conversation going forward.
MBIE in Hawke's Bay have connected with me and we are working together.
The Hawke's Bay Chamber
As we assess the needs we can shape up the information around common trends.
We can also tap into the Chamber network and wherever possible find support for our affected businesses. I don’t see this as immediate but more long term.
Hawke's Bay Chamber – my small team are amazing however their wellbeing is my priority. Most of them have been affected in some way.
They are working hard to collect data and do their jobs
5 out of my team of 7 have been displaced or are having difficulty getting into work due to the limited access between Napier and Hastings, however we are all still working.
A message from Waikato Chamber Board member Andrew Boyd
It has been a privilege to continue to volunteer on the Board of the Waikato Chamber while I assist Te Whatu Ora (Health New Zealand) merge the Public Health system while based in the Hawke’s Bay. This past week have been heart breaking for many many families and businesses throughout the North Island. From the Far North to West Auckland, Coromandel, Tairawhiti and Hawkes’s Bay, Cyclone Gabrielle has tested the resilience of our communities. For our community based in Napier, we had many compounding challenges. Flash flooding breached stop banks, the main power sub-station was inundated, causing widespread power failures, cell-phone towers running out of emergency batteries and going dark, and so our ubiquitous reliance on mobile communications meant tens of thousands of residents had no way to contact the outside world. This was life threatening for hundreds of vulnerable people who rely on power for medical devices and regular access to medications from pharmacies unable to operate without power.
Emergency services and Civil Defence performed admirably in very trying conditions. Local communities rallied to support each other for a number of days until national resources could be marshalled to render assistance. New Zealand Defence Forces, so capable in helping our Pacific neighbours during frequent cyclone relief missions, now swung into action to help our own rural communities cut off from the outside world.
With further wet weather re-testing fragile and broken infrastructure, the danger has not passed. However, communities now shift from response to recovery mode. Volunteers and donations have poured into the region and the people of Hawkes Bay are starting the very long process of repairing damaged businesses, homes and lives.
It is important to not forget the plight of Hawkes Bay businesses as they get back on their feet. Although visiting the Hawke’s Bay may not be feasible for the next few weeks, your purchasing of products from the Bay, or forward booking and paying for visits will help provide confidence for businesses and support their recovery.
The Waikato Chamber can work with the Hawke’s Bay Chamber to engage the business community to understand what they really need. I thank you for all your ongoing support.