Cut-off Gisborne residents building flying fox to move supplies

Mon, Mar 6

The small rural community of Pehiri, a 30-minute drive west of Gisborne, has been isolated since Cyclone Gabrielle swept away its bridges.

With farmers' livelihoods at risks, drastic steps are being taken to ensure the community is not forgotten — including a flying fox across the Hangaroa River.

"Three weeks ago we had a bridge," local resident Hamish Thatcher said, "since then, we've lost it, and since then we've been completely isolated... There's about 20 of us live [here] and this is our only access out."

There's a digger clearing an area so the Thatcher family can put up a flying fox — to ferry supplies and maybe, the kids.

"Well, we've got three girls two are at school and so I'm having to live in a very kind friends place to be able to put them into school," Bex Thatcher said.

"So once the flying fox is up, hopefully we can get them home and be able to flying fox over to school everyday," she laughed.

Further up the river, at a crossing point, 1News met farmer Ian Burgess face-to-face.

"The last week's been pretty tough. Just the enormity of it and how long it's going to take for us actually to be able to get back to a normal life, I suppose," he said.

The small community can fly in petrol but the biggest worry is moving stock around.

And there are other cut off communities in the region, all desperate to get roads restored by winter.

If that doesn't happen, and trucks can't get in, farmers face walking stock out — over highways and waterways, a time-consuming unsafe option farmers want to avoid.


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