Support from family, friends and the community has ensured safe refuge for Lorraine and furry friends Heidi and Amber.

“If I’d been working that day, Heidi and Amber would have drowned.” A chilling reminder for Lorraine of the dramatic escape her beloved Japanese pug dogs had on the day of the flood.

Already aware a significant weather event was going to hit the region that weekend, Lorraine had pre-packed her personal items and was sitting in PRs café having coffee, listening to reports of rising water levels.

With the flood water rising so rapidly, she decided to make a quick trip back home to grab her belongings and her pets to get to safety.

Unfortunately, with the water already knee deep on her street she was already unable to make it all the way through to her home.

Worried about her pets, it was with huge relief that Lorraine spotted her sister in a vehicle who informed her that she had the dogs. Jumping in the back of a truck, Lorraine along with her sister and brother-in-law found refuge for the night with friends in an unaffected part of town.

Lorraine stayed in a range of temporary accommodation including with her landlord’s friends, a co-worker, and The Westport Motor Hotel organised by Temporary Accommodation Services (TAS).

Four months on, Lorraine, Heidi and Amber are now settled and safe in their current accommodation, a cabin at the Westport Kiwi Holiday Park. Whilst their daily routine has changed dramatically, Lorraine is grateful for being able to live with her dogs in her new surroundings.

“It’s good here. Margaret (the holiday park owner) looks after us extremely well. I’ve got used to it and I feel really safe. If you’re going to be anywhere you may as well be here. I can walk around the park – it’s quite pleasant,” said Lorraine. “Other flood affected people are staying at the camp, we all know each other, and when they pass by my door, we say hi and have a chat.” 

The compact A-Frame cabin consists of a bedroom with ensuite bathroom and Lorraine has utilised the space well. “I have everything I need. I can cook a basic meal in my fryer, I’ve got a fridge and microwave in the room and if I just take my dishes over to the communal kitchen when I’m finished to do the washing up. It works well and it feels a bit like camping.”

Family, friends and the community have supported Lorraine who has shown remarkable resilience during this very challenging ordeal.

“The team from the Community Hub has been very good. I’ll come home and Janis from Johnny’s will call to ask if I got the meal they delivered. We also got a white bag from the hub and it was full of toiletries and essential personal items.”

Lorraine also used The Community Hub, who connected her early on with temporary accommodation options including registering for one of the Kainga Ora temporary houses, but for now she is happy to stay where she is with her furry companions.

When asked about what the most challenging thing is about her situation, Lorraine replies; “The mental part of it. I’m good now and I know things are happening. There was initial relief that everyone was okay, but there’s nothing you can do, you just have to go with it.”

Whilst repairs on her one-bedroom rental have now started, her landlord has indicated that she may not be able to return until mid-next year when the repairs will be fully completed.

Lorraine is glad to be back at work three days a week and has found that getting back to a familiar routine has helped with her sense of wellbeing.

Lorraine had full contents insurance and has found her insurer very good to deal with and her claim has been paid out. She found the pop-up insurance claims office in town very useful with this process.

While mid next year feels like a long way off for Lorraine, she remains focused on the positives and is happy that she can have Heidi and Amber living with her.

Lorraine is thankful for the continued support from her family, friends and the local community.