A Westport man says his property has been left “like a nuclear wasteland” after being inundated by seawater.
Ex-cyclone Fehi and king tides lashed the West Coast and Tasman District on February 1, bringing slips onto roads and causing sea surges, high winds, flash flooding, power outages and evacuations.
Snodgrass Rd resident Noel Burr said while he was relieved his house was spared, he was gutted all his vegetation had been destroyed.
He lives on the banks of the Orowaiti River, about 2 kilometres from the sea.
“Seawater came up here 2 metres higher than our king tide. It was like a tsunami. It came up in 20 minutes,” he said.
While he was able to save his animals and the water did not reach his main house, the storm destroyed his sheds, a deluxe two-bedroom unit, vehicles, orchard and extensive vegetable gardens.
Ten bikes, a telescope, a 2014 truck, family photographs and a baby grand piano were among the items that had to be thrown away, he said.
Burr, a retired traffic controller from Canterbury, said he had put countless hours and energy into his 15-acre lifestyle block.
Insurance would not cover the damage to his gardens.
“Everything had been hand nurtured. We had berries, corn, cherry, plum, apple, peach, pear, figs – within 24 hours of the storm surge they’d all gone brown and started to die. It’s not just the fruit trees, huge totara trees on our driveway have all gone brown.
“The water took two days to drain away. We are left with a place that looks like someone has sprayed Roundup on everything. Everything has gone brown and died.
“After 13 years of being here and developing the place, it’s quite soul destroying to find that in the space of 20 minutes the place has been absolutely destroyed. We have to wait now until the rain has leached as much salt as we can out of it and then we’ll put in new soils. All of our compost heaps were full of worms and they’ve all died,” he said.
Buller District Council building inspectors red-stickered 17 houses in Westport, 12 at Snodgrass, one in Charleston and one in Granity, following the storm.
Snodgrass Rd resident Marcus Shenker is living in a motel until his house can be renovated. His house was partially destroyed by Cyclone Ita four years ago.
“Luckily I am insured and I can have everything replaced. I’ve been told a guesstimate of 120 days before I can go home again,” he said.
Residents have to replace gib up to 300 millimetres above the flood level and get electrical and sewerage systems checked.
Derby St was flooded after sea water flowed up the Orowaiti River, over the rubbish dump and racecourse and into people’s homes.
Lani Raharuhi’s property was red-stickered after contaminated water flowed through his house and destroyed most of his family’s belongings.
“It was up to our ankles, but it had gone through the horse stables in the racecourse first so it was full of horse s….”
While he was staying with family, thieves had stolen some belongings from his red-stickered property.
“I came back [Friday] morning and found somebody had tried to kick our garage door in. Scum, that’s what they are. They stole a mower and a bike that were in the garden,” he said.