As water gouged out the hillside above their caravan, Anthony Stead and Jessica Mead grabbed baby Bella and made a 4am dash to safety. Photo Rose Davis

An Onetangi couple with a baby suffered a “scary” night as debris slipped down a hill and bombarded their caravan during last week’s storm.

A window was smashed in the caravan on Hobson Terrace that Jessica Mead and Anthony Stead have been living in with their baby, Bella, and at times with two older children.
A slip on Trig Hill Road above their section appears to have caused stormwater to flood down, gouging out huge areas of the hill above their caravan during heavy rain last Tuesday and Wednesday.

“There was a roaring sound of all this gravel falling – it was like machine gun fire hitting the caravan continuously.
“That’s when we bailed – it was about 4am.
“The water pouring down was like Huka Falls, it was dark and we couldn’t even see where we were walking,” says Anthony.

Jessica couldn’t find her shoes, which had been washed away, and when they finally reached the car, it was “half buried” in mud and difficult to drive away.
The couple returned to find their caravan damaged and a living area that was carpeted and covered with an awning looking like a disaster zone.

“The caravan inside is fine, but everything outside is a mess of mud and gravel from the road and rocks.
“The awning is off the ground, the flood smashed the shelves and sent things flying.
“All the kitchen stuff is completely smashed up all over the floor,” says Jessica.

A flat area that the couple had created for their caravan and as a future building platform has been eroded, with metre-deep gullies formed by floodwaters. A retaining wall beside the driveway still stands, but the earth around it has mostly washed away, making access to the property treacherous.

Jessica and Anthony were pleased to see the caravan still standing. “If that hill behind us had let go, it could have pushed the caravan off the retaining wall,” he says.

The couple moved to Waiheke to be close to Jessica’s family and could only afford to buy a section to live on while they build a house. “We knew it was going to be hard living in a caravan with a baby, but we didn’t expect this,” says Jessica.

Anthony is a builder and Jessica a registered nurse who worked in the oncology department at Auckland City Hospital before taking maternity leave with four-month-old Bella.
Luckily, Jessica’s 13-year-old son, Melachai, and Anthony’s five-year-old son, Andrew, were away the night of the storm.

While the family works on restoring their property to a habitable state, they are staying with cousins in Ostend.

However, with about 10 people in a four-bedroom house, “we’re full”, says Jessica.
The earth under Trig Hill Road has been hollowed out at one point above the couple’s section, potentially destabilising the road.

Jessica has contacted Auckland Transport and Auckland Council about the damage, but has not had any reply, although Waiheke Local Board member Shirin Brown and local board advisor Mark Inglis have contacted her. Many properties along Trig Hill Road had driveways damaged during the heavy rain, because the culvert cannot cope with stormwater that comes off the hill, says Jessica.

Auckland Transport has been planning to improve stormwater drainage along the road for several years, she says.

“Our section is right where Trig Hill Road turns a corner, so it’s a natural pathway for water to come down, if it’s not redirected.
“Auckland Transport was meant to put a stormwater easement through our property, but it’s come a bit too late unfortunately.
“You have to wonder how resource consents are getting approved, when they haven’t made the area as safe as it should be.”

The storm damage has set back work on making the family’s building site into a comfortable home by about six months.
“From a mother’s perspective, I’ve got to put up with mud piled up all around us and worrying about slipping over with the baby.
“It feels like we’re back to square one … It’s got to the point I don’t know if I should laugh or cry.”

Although their caravan is not insured, the couple does have insurance on its contents.
Anyone able to help with earthworks to restore the property or temporary accommodation for the family can contact • Rose Davis

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