Kellie Meehan usually drives 40 minutes each way to her shop in Latham Street, ready to welcome each day’s batch of customers needing a trim.
When Cyclone Gabrielle hit Hawke’s Bay, it was the end of her daily commute.
The bridge across the Mangaone River at Rissington was washed away, and access to the Dartmoor Valley, the alternative route to town, was out of the question due to slips and road washouts.
For Kellie and the hundreds of others who live in the Patoka, Rissington and Puketitiri communities, regular access to Napier and Hastings will return once a Bailey bridge is completed at the former bridge site. Until then, travelling to town means taking a jet boat across the river, or using a four-wheel drive vehicle to cross a recently built causeway, open only when the weather is good.
Kellie and husband Clive live on a lifestyle block on Waihau Road, along with a cute terrier, Mr Bojangles, and a small flock of sheep.
Patoka is in the Hastings district, and many roads and bridges, as well as farms, have been severely damaged.
Post-cyclone, Kellie and Clive’s first major issue was being able to safely cross Follie’s bridge which connected them with the main road, Puketitiri Road, and the civil defence community hub at the local hall. Army engineers have deemed it safe to drive, at a walking pace.
The couple have helped where and when they can.
This has included taking children to Patoka Kindergarten, situated by the hall. They have transported hundreds of litres worth of fuel as far down Waihau Road as possible, to get it to people on the Dartmoor valley side, and helped move supplies, brought in from the Napier-Taihape Road, across the Tutaekuri River.
They have also loaned their old Toyota landcruiser to a mate in Esk who has lost everything.
It is what anyone would do, says Kellie, who grew up in Esk and Dartmoor. “If I ever hear of a destructive cyclone, storm or quake that damages a province in New Zealand, I will drop tools and volunteer or give as much as I can spare to donate or help.”
Kellie has also offered free haircuts to the community. It’s something she can do which makes people feel a bit more like themselves again, she says.
Kellie’s first trip to Napier post-cyclone was to check on her business, One Cut Ahead, which she has operated for 25 years.
She has had to leave a note for customers explaining things will be back to normal as soon as possible.
Kellie always wanted to be a hairdresser, and started hanging around a salon from the age of 11. By 15, she had started an apprenticeship. Even on her OE, she put her trade to good use, working in a barbershop.
She’s only ever been interested in cutting hair, she says. “My Dad always said you can go a long way with a trade. He was right.”
Kellie and Clive agree one good thing to come out of this situation is getting to know their neighbours and the rest of the community better. “We’re all working together. It brings tears to my eyes to see and feel the love and support from so many people, near and far.”
15 March 2023
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