When he was able to leave his home, half of the town was still in-tact while the other side was completely devastated.
“On the North side, a motel, bowling club, petrol station, Iwi Centre for Ngāti Kahungunu and the Māori language school where the new film festival office is were all flooded. It all looked so weird. We then had four days of sunshine, so everything dried out. Wairoa looked like a cowboy town,” Leo says.
With Nūhaka already being a rural town, the community had to rely on each other to get through the first few days.
“The best thing for us was to be with our own people, look after each other and do what we could. The supermarkets were stripped bare and there were only things like onions left.
“A Marae that wasn’t damaged opened their doors for the community. They went around getting as much food from damaged freezers and began cooking. They cooked for 24 hours. The fire station became a relief hub and we all spent our time there, being looked after by our neighbours.”