In less than an hour, two decades of planting trees, building fences and establishing gardens full of flowers and kai were damaged and washed away.
Several properties on Reu Reu Road, part of Te Reureu Valley, 30km north of Feilding, were damaged when the December 15 floods hit Manawatū.
But, none were as damaged as the home of 73-year-old Julie Rush​.
“It was like a tsunami when it came down the hill…everything washed away….my car was floating in the water,” she said. “Twenty years of planting, putting up fences… it’s gone.”
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Rush was only receiving a pension and said she could not afford to fix all of the damage.
“The mind has the energy, but my body can’t do it any more. We need the councils to come and help.”
She pleaded for financial support to rebuild fences to keep stock in and replant trees, which could help prevent future flooding.
She ran the land in partnership with John Heron​, 74.
The two of them said they had rung Horizons Regional Council and Manawatū District Council for help, but both were closed for the holidays.
“I need them to come out here and see it. Everyone knows this place was hit the hardest… contractors have driven past, clearing the roads… but no-one has actually come to see what damage has been done to us.
“While they’re on nice holidays, I’m scared about what could happen… the creek is road level with silt and rocks. Until they come… I’m afraid of waking up and seeing that it’s raining again.”
She said heavy rain on December 15 lasted for just 45 minutes, but waves of stormwater and tree debris continued to flow down the hill and onto her property.
Three weeks later when Stuff visited there were still marks from where the silt had been, at some points over 600 centimetres high.
Despite over a dozen neighbours coming to dig out her home and sheds and throw away damaged carpet and belongings, much of the land remained blanketed with silt.
It had since dried, turning swathes of land into a sandy beach.
Horses and cattle were wandering around the property, their paddocks now fenceless.
Rush leased the land from local Māori in 2003.
She said after two decades of caring for the land, local Māori elders referred to her as kaitiaki, or guardian, of her parcel of land.
She was told she could live on the land for the rest of her life.
It was why she refused to move on, even when she had to live out of a caravan in the driveway.
“The community support is wonderful, but their own properties are damaged, too, they can’t keep working on mine.
“I’m a tough old b…., I’ve never asked for help… but I’m asking now for the councils to step up.”
She said the only official people to visit her were mana whenua.
The Poupatate Marae was three minutes away and had provided shelter and kai for locals on the night of the floods.
Rush looked after 12 hectares of land.
In December 2020, mana whenua of Te Reureu Valley told the Waitangi Tribunal how Māori lost 7000 hectares of land during the illegitimate selling of the Rangitīkei-Manawatū block.
They now only had 1000 hectares, and some of that had been eroded by weather events.
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