Picking Yourself Up Again

Picking Yourself Up Again

I can only barely comprehend the scale of damage that Cyclone Gabrielle has wrought on parts of the North Island, especially just over the Ruahine Range in Hawkes Bay. There will be a staggering cost in money, materials, time and mental health before the devastation is remotely put right. My heart goes out to those who must pull everything together and carry on because that is what they must do.

Nature can be a stern mother at times, especially when we have ignored the warnings. The effects of human created climate change, building on flood plains and questionable forestry practices, amongst others.

But rather than talk about the likes of climate change, I want to share what it is like to pick yourself up again and carry on.

During the history of River Valley, we have experienced many damaging weather events (though not on the scale of Cyclone Gabrielle). These have included massive floods on the river, receiving a third of our annual rainfall in 36 hours, unprecedented snowfalls (twice!), occasional wind storms, along with the more common slips and the impact of thunderstorms.

While most of the damage from flooding is limited to the river trench, a flood can be incredibly damaging further downstream. Rapids that have not changed in years can unexpectedly significantly alter the Grade 5 section. In some ways, this is easier to deal with as there is nothing we can do about it other than change how we run that section.

All the rest, though, usually involve massive amounts of human labour, whether that be on a shovel, a chainsaw or feeding a branch chipper. Typically we will also use our own tractor while occasionally needing to bring in heavier machinery.

Cyclone Gabrielle Damage
Cyclone Gabrielle Damage

Some images of River Valley after the recent cyclone Gabrielle.  We were fortunate not to suffer any major damage during the cyclone and we are operating as normal.

Physical fatigue sets in as the days go on –sometimes, it is days. In a major weather event, there is always more that needs to be done. The work is hard and monotonous, and progress can feel slow and be slow. But what we have had to do now seems so minor, and that is without the grieving that no doubt many people are presently feeling.

The mental cost of this constant toil and the resultant stress can be the most debilitating. The grief, the worry over money, the slow progress and the aching body all contribute to a form of mental exhaustion.

As time passes, the people of Hawkes Bay and other affected areas will feel these emotions, and I feel for them as the job ahead of them is immense. Fellowship and support of others and help from further afield will help, but that alone will not replace what has been lost from the toil of years and, in some cases, generations.

But in the end, the human spirit is strong, and you pick yourself up again. For you do not only do it for yourself, but you also do it for your family, and you do it for your community.

And as you repair and rebuild, you try and make what you rebuild more resilient because these events will no doubt happen again.

There will be compromises as quickly fixing the present is balanced against building a more resilient future.

These will be hard but necessary decisions and not to be made in haste. Future generations depend on the soundness of those decisions.

Brian Megaw