Starting all over again

Margaret Symons is determined to restore the house that she has called home for fifty years:

Three months after Cyclone Gabrielle devastated parts of Hawke’s Bay, Margaret Symons still spends every day working in mud.

Before the cyclone flooded her home of 50 years, in Puketapu behind Taradale in Hawke’s Bay, Margaret taught history and home economics at Flaxmere College in Hastings. “I don’t know how people (who were badly affected) can continue their jobs as my brain doesn’t even function right.” Every day at 2am Margaret wakes up with anxiety.

“Anxiety, depression and alcohol abuse are the side effects of floods and there are so many people I talk to who have got at least one – or some have all three – of these conditions.”

Margaret and her husband live near the Tutaekuri river, one of Hawke’s Bays largest. When it burst its banks during the cyclone, the water was above the high windows in their house.

Everything had to be taken out of their home and three months on Margaret is still sorting through ‘stuff’.  Looking for something literally takes her days as she has to work through layers of carpet, piled on mud, piled on household items.

“Being a teacher my hard drive, my USB sticks – they’re all stuffed and I’ve lost all of my books, lost all printed resources, photos, anything to do with my life. I’m a historian and I’ve always collected local history because I was going to write a book, but all of those things have gone.”

She says some lovely things have happened since the devastating cyclone, including crews of PPTA Te Wehengarua members who have come to help on strike days. “I think some of them got a bit of a shock realising that you don’t get a lot done in four hours because of the mud.”

Thanks to a PPTA Te Wehengarua grant the caravan that she and her husband live in now has an awning, which gives them an area to cook in and a bit more room. “You can’t have a big row with your husband in a caravan – well you can but one person has to go to one end of the caravan and the other to the other end.”

Margaret is grateful for all the support from PPTA Te Wehengarua. “This has been a wonderful oppportunity for me to push PPTA and tell non-members about why it’s good to be part of the union, all the things we have fought for and the fact that you just never know what’s going to happen. Michael (Stevenson, PPTA General Secretary) gave me a couple of T-shirts and I wear them everywhere.”

Last modified on Thursday, 13 July 2023 14:53