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Te Kura O Te Kauaeranga - Thames South School has registered with Civil Defence’s Emergency Operations Centre as a Community Led Centre for Thames. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Hot showers, warm kai as kura opens as evacuation centre

There is a hot macaroni and cheese cooking at Te Kura O Te Kauaeranga – Thames South School. 

The team on site have also prepared a warming soup, have boiled the jug, and have transformed a classroom into a movie theatre for the kids.

On the kura’s third day as a Community Led Centre, accommodating displaced people during Cyclone Gabrielle’s visit to the Thames Valley, they are still getting families utilising the space for shelter, comfort, and peace of mind. 

“We’ve had whānau come in from day one,” board chair Michael Barlow told The Profile on Tuesday. “Some have been coming and going, and we’ve also had people in transit – people who have nowhere else to go.” 

On Saturday, the board decided to register with Civil Defence’s Emergency Operations Centre as a Community Led Centre for Thames. 

The kura has worked with Te Whāriki Manawāhine O Hauraki Womens Refuge, Ngati Maru, local Māori Wardens, Thames High School, and Coastal Bins.

“What drives me is just making sure our whānau are safe. I’m okay, my own house is fine, but thinking about everyone else that is struggling, even just struggling to have a feed and a nice hot shower, that’s what drives all of us,” Michael said.

As an evacuation centre, the kura on Rolleston St has welcomed in a woman with pets, large family groups, and homeless residents. 

“We had a lovely couple who had six kids, they couldn’t get home, they had no power, and so they came in, had lunch, and then once the roads cleared, they went home,” Michael said.

“Monday night was probably our busiest. We had a family come in who were drenched. We gave them towels, a hot drink, and blankets, and they crashed out here until this morning.”

Michael’s mum, Andre, is still at the kura making meals, and Michael said at this stage, he expected the school will still be operating as a Community Led Centre on Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, Waikino School in the Karangahake Gorge also opened its doors on Monday night in case anyone needed a place to stay.

Principal Jo Wheway said she thought the school wouldn’t be needed, but she got a call about 10:30pm from a “lovely local family” worried about the large trees around their property.

“So, they came up and spent the night warm and safe in one of our classrooms,” she said. “They’ve headed back to their place this morning and thankfully their house is safe.” 

Jo said it was “handy” that they were able to offer school as a safe refuge for people as Waikino was often “overlooked” as it was located between Waihī and Paeroa. 

“But if we have floods and slips then the people of Waikino can’t get to either of those towns, so we have to start thinking about community resilience as we look to a future with increased likelihood of adverse weather events,” she said.

– Additional reporting by Alice Parminter.