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Motor camp staff and QRS share the load

sharron bill

Things had been quiet at Wairoa's Riverside Motor Camp since Cyclone Gabrielle blew through, floodwaters bowling caravans, flooding units and wrecking the surrounding grounds.

However, a mammoth restoration effort will hopefully see the central Wairoa camping ground up and running for the summer.

The camping ground is owned by the Wairoa District Council which has undertaken to restore areas like the kitchen and ablution blocks that are critical to its operation.

Wairoa District Council Chief Executive Kitea Tipuna praised the efforts of local contracting company QRS which had been working on-site for weeks to help the popular camping ground rebuild.

“It’s great to see a real community-driven effort. Thank you to everyone who has been involved, and especially to our lessees, Sharron and Bill who have been through a lot but remain upbeat.

Sharron Solomon who, with her husband Bill Dicken, have leased the campground for 23 years, and are grateful for all the restoration work. “To all of us, they are real heroes.”

Sharron is a bit of a hero herself, credited for raising the alarm in the early hours of February 14, 2023, when the Wairoa River breached its banks.

Getting up just before 3.30am,  she automatically checked the security camera and, to her horror, saw water flooding into the kitchen block just below her and Bill's on-site home.

Having been warned a storm was coming the couple had asked those who could, to leave the day before, but there were still 10 caravans on the riverside park, plus occupants in the units and neighbouring accommodation.

“There was no phone, no nothing, so one of our residents Grant Bishop, a former firefighter, bolted down to the fire station to set off the emergency siren and that was the way most people found out the flood was coming,” Sharron says.

“There was nothing else we could do, so we just sat here and watched huge waves washing logs and debris up the river.”

Forward-planning meant everyone was safe and the couple lost just two caravans, along with the pricey semi-permanent cabin they had planned to retire to “when our time comes”.

But also gone was Sharron's brother's Harley Davidson motorcycle – “I still think about that!” -- and the grounds were a mess.

“Since then, QRS and their subcontractors have been here digging out silt, raising the land to help prevent future flooding, and installing new drainage and piping,” Sharron says.

“They've also replaced the power boxes that were all under water . . . they gave a mighty hiss when they were turned on!”

And Sharron and Bill have been doing their bit, too. “We've both been working really hard to try to restore the property . . . poor Billy has been living on the end of a shovel,” Sharron says.

“But it would all seem hopeless if it wasn't for the team taking care of the big stuff. This is our life, we love it here, and we're determined to be doing it all again by summer.”

Photo: Despite heartache and hard work Sharron Solomon and Bill Dicken are determined to oversee the restoration of Wairoa Riverside Motor Camp. “This is our life, we love it here, and we're determined to be doing it all again by summer,” says Sharron.

29 June 2023

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