Community comes together to support Anakiwa residents in need after severe weather
With a population of around 170 permanent residents, the small coastal community of Anakiwa in the Marlborough Sounds pulled together recently to support their vulnerable people after slips closed their only access road, cutting them off from healthcare and essential services.
Semi-retired District Nurse and COVID-19 vaccinator Ann Arnold lives in Anakiwa and works an hour’s drive away in Blenheim.
“On Friday night after the heavy rains I was not able to get home from work as the roads were closed. By this stage there were two major hillside slips at Anakiwa, a lot of mud had come down. To wade through that you'd be up to your thighs. Part of our road had subsided directly below two baches which have suffered major structural damage when the ground slumped away beneath them, taking the road out.”
Stranded at work in Blenheim, Ann’s husband was planning to travel to Picton on their yacht to collect her, but luckily local adventure non-profit Outward Bound were making the trip so Ann was able to hitch a ride with them back home to Anakiwa.
Locals helping locals
Ann was familiar with one particular Anakiwa-based patient who had been discharged from hospital the week before. The patient lived alone and Ann knew that after the heavy rain he wouldn’t be able to travel to have his dressing changed. With the roads treacherous, Ann thought she might be able to take a dinghy and row around the bay to access the patient, but as it turned out she was able to get there on foot.
“You could just jump down onto the subsided part and climb up onto the other side wearing gumboots, shorts and parka as it was torrential rain, and walk on to his house. That was good as I was able to redress the patient’s wound."
Ann was also able to set up further support for this patient through local charitable trust Community and Support Services, known as CASS.
“We have an amazing support system out here – when you have adversity like this in a small community everyone pulls together. CASS help elderly people out here on their own to be able to stay in their home if they have been unwell or if they need assistance.”
"With the patient’s permission I was able to get in touch with CASS and a network has been arranged for a rota system to drive him to where he needs to be if I have to leave the bay for work and am unable to redress his wound, or he needs his blood tests. CASS can also assist with meals, home help and personal cares. It’s very difficult to get support services in these remote areas – they can step in so it's really beneficial.”
This patient wasn’t the only one who needed support following the weather event, Ann explains: “We’ve had three other people here with health needs during the rain who have needed to leave the bay to get their treatment.”
“First aiders assisted one resident who was transported out by Picton Coastguard and onwards to Wairau. Another resident developed a blood clot in their leg requiring transport into A&E and a wheelchair-bound resident was determined to keep their much awaited appointment in Christchurch for the fitting of a new prosthetic leg. Outward Bound once again stepped in transporting the resident in their wheelchair by launch into Picton where she could make her flight."
A community coming together
Outward Bound have stepped in to provide further support to locals too, Ann explains.
“They have helped with the postal service bringing the mail to the jetty where locals have sorted and distributed to letterboxes. They have picked up groceries and medication – Outward Bound have been fantastic in running their launch up to Picton daily until the road reopened.”
A couple of weeks on, slips are still being cleared but limited road access to Anakiwa has been restored. “We have still got a lot of water running around where the slips are, otherwise it’s starting to dry out which makes a big difference.”
Despite the challenges, Ann is still making it to work most days which at the moment means leaving at 6.30am. “That’s what we are doing – working around the times we can get out and going to work on those days, while looking after the patient out here at Anakiwa.”
Ann says it’s the community spirit which has helped support locals during a really difficult time. “If there are any obstacles, there’s a solution and everyone pulls together. It’s been amazing really.”