Special feature: Auckland floods

Auckland was hit hard by a massive downpour of rain near the end of January and selfless contractors were quickly there to assist in West Auckland

At a restaurant in October last year, a wiseacre was overheard telling his fellow diners "I reckon summer’s going to be cancelled in 2023." It turns out he was right, even though he wouldn’t have been aware of the extent of his prediction.

Friday, 27 January 2023, will most certainly go down in history as Auckland’s wettest day in 170 years with what has been described as dumping more water on the city in a few hours than would normally be expected in the entire summer season.

In a few short hours, the storm produced some 245mm of rain compared to an average summer rainfall of 319mm. The severity of the event, the damage, and heartbreak that has resulted is almost beyond belief with more than 260 homes red stickered and thousands more yellow stickered.

While Auckland is used to semi-regular flooding events, these are usually localised, unlike the city-wide deluge that occurred.

In many cases, it’s going to take years to repair, and authorities from a local to a national level will continue to have their resources stretched to the limit for some time yet.

Roads and properties that had previously looked to be situated on solid ground were washed away virtually in the blink of an eye and just about everybody has a story to tell about what took place over those few hours. Not far from where

I sit and write these words is a house that was levelled from two storeys to one, evidently because of a water tank that was pushed into the house by what appeared to be a fairly small subsidence.

Contractors take action

Precision Earthworks and Retaining’s Jack Casey and client hard at work

If there’s any one positive aspect to come out of all the mayhem, it’s that in New Zealand we’re lucky to have more than our fair share of community-minded contractors who were happy to spring into action by volunteering both their time and machinery to clear blocked water courses and driveways to alleviate some of the anguish on communities.

Social media sites were abuzz with generous offers from earthwork operators to come and clear people’s driveways by not only using their expertise but also the machinery that most people don’t normally have sitting in their backyards.

While some areas in the city came

out the other side of the event pretty much unscathed, it seems like if your house was situated near a creek, in a valley, or on a hillside, you were going to be in the firing line of copious amounts of water or landslides.

West Auckland events

Aarons Contracting assisting Counties Energy with some large fallen macrocarpa trees across Beaver Rd through their high voltage conductors

This part of the city was particularly hard hit where steep bush-clad hillsides were washed onto roadways (over-slips) and roads were reduced to one lane by under-slips. In one particular spot on the Scenic Drive, there’s an over-slip and an under-slip in the space of 100 metres, with council officials saying the road could be closed for a year or more, which will force residents who live nearby to take two entirely different routes to get to and from their residences.

Further down the road in the village of Titirangi, a short video clip was quickly posted on social media of a community-minded drainlaying company working their little Bobcat excavator hard-out on a slip that had completely blocked the arterial road, causing someone to quip that the volunteers were on the job a lot quicker than the council was.

Roy Wykes, another West Auckland business owner, was head down in his office completing the official name change of his business from Precision Earthworks to Precision Earthworks and Retaining. Roy and partner Paigan were so focussed on the administration side of things that they were completely unaware of the scene unfolding outside until they were travelling to a day-care pick-up where they came across several washouts and houses that were underwater.

The next morning, while on a recon mission to the yard to make sure all the gear was safe and dry, Roy and Paigan both realised they should do their bit to help the community.

One of their operators, Jack Casey also touched base; he had been out and about the evening before helping where he could and was keen to support the Precision team in lending a hand, so they decided to put a post on the local community Facebook page offering their machines and time free of charge over the weekend.

Roy says that within two hours of receiving the first call for help, he and his team were on-site surveying a large slip that was blocking access to a resident’s house.

Without any access into or out of the property, the occupants were understandably stressed, so a plan was made to get some machinery to the site the following Monday, which was Anniversary Day.

Being a typical Titirangi property, the driveway was steep and narrow, providing a challenge logistically for removing the spoil, so the company’s 3.5-tonne and five-tonne Hitachi excavators were put to use passing the spoil up the driveway to load into the firm’s brand new six-wheeler Fuso Shogun, their four-wheeler Hino ranger, and another six-wheeler hired in from a local subcontractor.

Walking access via the driveway was restored on that day, and the client was able to move their car out to safety the following evening.

Works continued for the remainder of the week to ensure the bank was stabilised following removal of the spoil, drainage was restored to assist water diversion and prevent further slips and leave the driveway clean and tidy, although this property now requires retaining works, which are in the design stages. Both Precision Earthworks and Retaining and the client are pleased with the way the team pulled together to carry out the emergency works during unfavourable conditions of continual heavy rain and strong winds.

A landowner in nearby Oratia also had a restless night with a large dam on a neighbouring property overflowing with the potential to cause flooding further downstream.

A phone call to Civil Defence attracted the attention of multiple agencies, including NZ Police, which resulted in Peter Ward from Ward Demolition being called in to advise and assist.

Local company ABC Landscapes who already had their 13.5-tonne machine next door were able to walk the machine approximately 200 metres to the dam face and breach the dam in a controlled manner while Ward Demolition’s 25-tonne machine carried out a precautionary clearing some two-kilometre downstream.

Specialist equipment required

The ABC Landscape crew realeased the water from the pond gradually over a one-hour period

Aaron Blackbourn’s company Aarons Contracting received a call later in the evening of the storm from Franklin Trees who have a contract to carry out arborist work on Auckland’s motorways.

The job was to remove five Pohutukawa trees that had slipped from the hillside in St Mary’s Bay.

The trees that were classed as ‘protected’ nevertheless needed to be removed urgently, as they were threatening to damage sound barriers and more than likely would’ve slipped onto the motorway.

By 10pm, Aaron and his Isuzu and chipper joined a team of five Franklin Trees crews last minute.

Aaron says although the weather was atrocious, there wasn’t much time to rest, as it was off to clear some trees blocking the road in the Hunua Ranges early the following morning.


Unfortunately, to tell the stories of every company that rallied to help people they’d never met before, purely out of the goodness of their hearts would prove an impossible task to perform.

Listed below are other companies that extended a helping hand at a time when people were very much in need of assistance in a time of crisis.

  • Hodz Drainage
  • Exaro Contracting
  • DK Smith Excavations
  • TKO Contracting
  • A Cathcart Drainage

No doubt there were many more contractors who assisted with plant and personnel where they could to reduce risk to people and property.

Their work helped relieve stress on many families and enabled faster recovery times for the community.

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