Why is your Council request taking longer than usual?Here’s the answer

Published on 10 April 2023

Photo of Mayor Vince Cocurullo in the mayoral robe and chains.

It has been almost two months since Civil Defence declared a State of Emergency in Northland, as Cyclone Gabrielle tore through our region. Between Saturday 11 February and Tuesday 14 February (Valentines Day), parts of Whangārei District experienced more than 400mm of rain, including the highest recorded 24-hour rainfall in New Zealand. 

It may feel as though life is back to normal now, and for some of our residents that may be the case. Many others, however, are still dealing with the effects of the cyclone, and the impact on Whangarei District Council’s planned works programme has been massive, as cyclone recovery work continues to take precedence.

On an average working week, we will receive around 2000 phone calls. During the week of the cyclone, Council logged 4578 calls, reporting more than triple the standard number of jobs for contractors to manage, with many reported as critical. 

Similarly, Council will usually receive anywhere from 40 to 50 calls per month for tree-related issues. From 11 - 28 February alone, our Council received 263 tree-related calls, and in March, this number was still sitting up at 126 calls, which is more than double the average number. 

Our roads were the worst hit and are taking the most resourcing (and time). Between February 12 and 20 Feb, Whangārei reported 273 instances of road damage, and at the time of writing this column, all roads have been repaired or cleared, with only 61 roads still down to single lane, 4WD only or passable with caution, and 6 roads listed as impassable. Every available resource has been redirected to this essential work, which has impacted planned seal extensions and road maintenance as a result. 

If you notice trees lying beside roads and piles of branches in our parks, and you're wondering why the job you lodged before the storm still hasn’t been completed, please have patience. 

The simple fact is, Council and contractors have managed more than triple their standard workload, without triple the resourcing. With all private contractors at capacity during the immediate storm response, Council was unable to allocate extra resources to the response. With the immediate storm response now passed, we are looking to clear the backlog of work, always with safety and budget in mind.  

Thanks to a huge effort from Council staff and contractors, our District’s tracks and walkways should all be open and now (except the Drummond Track and the Whau Valley Dam track), our beaches are accessible, our local roads are mostly cleared and (thanks to Waka Kotahi) the Brynderwyns are temporarily open in both directions. Our District might not be as tidy as we would like, yet we are here, and we are open to tourism and business visitors alike.

If you’re unhappy with the tidiness of our District, I have some interim suggestions: help at the Love Whangārei Monthly Clean Up events, sponsor a public garden, get a team together and take on some weeding, and if you have a fireplace, take some of the wood lying around! Just remember to stay safe, and most importantly, please have patience with Council staff and contractors. We’re all in this together. 

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