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Groundswell of awhi for community sandbag event

Saturday 6 May, 2023

A community project to fill 10,000 sandbags for Tairāwhiti next weekend is the first of its kind in New Zealand.

Tairāwhiti Emergency Management Manager Ben Green says there’s been a groundswell of awhi for this project, which is a joint initiative between Gisborne District Council and the Rapid Relief Team (RRT) and supported by Fulton Hogan.

Next Saturday 13 May, you’re invited between 11am and 2pm to collect up to 10 sandbags for your home or business if you’re in a flood prone or low-lying area.

The event is taking place at Halbert Road, off Main Road at Makaraka. There’ll even be a free sausage sizzle.

Mr Green says the aim is to prepare our region as much as possible when we are faced with extreme weather events.

“We are moving into winter, and we know more rain is coming.

“Often, we’ve seen community members try to locate sandbags in the midst of an event, which requires sand, and this is while trying to respond to their situation.

“This project seeks to take a proactive approach so we have a ready and deployable reserve of sandbags distributed throughout the region that communities can activate.

“We thank Clarke and the Rapid Relief Team for the use of their specialised machine, the community volunteers who have hopped on board and all the businesses that have supported this.

“We also want to acknowledge Fulton Hogan who will be partnering up with us to take care of the logistics of getting these sandbags into the region.”

The Rapid Sand Bagger being used in Gisborne next weekend is one of only two machines in New Zealand.

They were imported by the RRT from America – with one machine that stays in the South Island and one in the North Island.

RRT team leader Clarke Judd says it’s a practical way to help communities be proactive rather than reactive for flood events.

The Rapid Sand Bagger will be operated by RRT volunteers who aim to fill around 500 bags an hour.

The sandbags weigh around 16kg each, so come with a trailer if you can on the Saturday.

The intention is that the filled sandbags will be distributed in flood-prone areas. This includes the city, up the coast and the river catchments.

A quantity will be stored by Fulton Hogan to be brought out when needed.

On Friday, RRT volunteers will start filling up the bags with the machine using sand from local beaches. The sand is being collected under the consent of Siteworx Civil, where Mr Judd works. East Coast Hire will donate their equipment and Fulton Hogan will transport the bags, Pro-Traffic will volunteer their traffic management services for Saturday and Fulton Hogan has agreed to storage of the pre-filled sandbags not stored in private homes or businesses.

Mr Green says the sandbags won’t stop flooding however they will provide peace of mind for whānau and business owners.

“Having a ready supply on hand that can be immediately deployed is what we are seeking to provide for whānau who can often avert damage by deploying them.”

Rapid Sand Bagger in action

Rapid Sand Bagger

On Saturday 13 May, the public is invited to collect up to 10 sandbags for their home between 11am and 2pm on Halbert Road in Makaraka. There’ll also be a free sausage sizzle.

Pictured below are RRT team leader Clarke Judd with Tairāwhiti Emergency Management Manager Ben Green, who together made this project happen.

The Rapid Sand Bagger (in action above being run by RRT volunteers) is one of only two of these machines in the country that were imported by the Rapid Relief Team to provide a practical way to help communities.

Clarke Judd and Ben Green