Gisborne members in the News – February 2024

City street wiped out

When builder Brendan Fry saw the plight of flooded Vogel Street residents he stopped building houses, and started to try saving them.

THE day after Cyclone Gabrielle had bullied its way across Te Tairāwhiti, Bill Moore gave a weary thumbs up from the balcony of the riverside house he and wife June had for decades called home.

“He was saying they were all good but they obviously weren’t,” says Gisborne builder Brendan Fry. “The whole of Vogel Street was just munted, and nobody had even been to check in on them.”

Brendan’s first thought had been to secure the building site he was working on at Wainui Beach…a task he completed just before the bridges closed and he was marooned on the city side of the Waimata River. His second was to suspend work on that project altogether.

“That’s what we do, we build homes, but how can you do that when some people have no home at all?” he says. “So we decided that, for the next few days, helping those people was going to be our
focus.”

And there was some big manpower on tap: as well as running the team at Brendan Fry Builder Ltd, Brendan is president of the Gisborne branch of the NZ Certified Builders Association while his
partner Tracy Pedersen is secretary.

“Obviously we had no comms at that point so we drafted a memo and Tracy drove around delivering them by hand to any of our members we could find.

“We managed to get hold of eight or 10 of them, and despite what was going on in their own lives, each and every one said they would help.”

That was the Wednesday and by Thursday the big machinery started rolling in.

“With the support of local businesses we had diggers, bobcats, trucks, trailers…everything you think we’d need to get the silt from the site to our approved dump location,” Brendan says.

“But a lot of it was just grunt work on the end of a shovel.”

The really difficult part, he says, was clearing out residents’ silt-sodden belongings.

“There was a lot of carpet, furniture, all that sort of stuff, but it was the little things that were the hardest. We’d ask what residents wanted to do with special items like photo albums but they were all ruined. Trailer-load after trailer-load just had to be dumped.”

It got tougher as time went on, Tracy says, the sludge turning into a liquid slurry that was difficult to handle.

“But they just kept at it. It was obvious those homeowners were going to have some difficult decisions to make in the future but, at that time, they needed to know people cared and were there for
them.”

The news has not been great for the residents of Vogel Street…six of the eight homes have been deemed Category 3 (unsafe) and will be bought out. But for those still there, including Bill and June
Moore, Brendan Fry and his cohort of builders have not forgotten them.

“When we heard big rain was approaching again in June, Brendan pulled his entire crew off a build and took them to fill 100 sandbags to help protect the properties,” Tracy says.

“That’s just who he is. He’s constantly thinking about what others need then doing what he can to help.”

Pictured above: Taking a well-deserved break from their work at Vogel Street are (left to right) Dan Fogarty, Phill Claffey, Grub Irving, Max Gavin, Sam Gavin, Bruce Knight, Brendan Fry, Bill Moore (homeowner), Barry Hudson, Shayne Tuapawa, Levi A.

The full For Tairāwhiti with Aroha publication can be read here

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