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‘Worst in 25 years’

Thursday 14 July 2022 | Written by Caleb Fotheringham | Published in National, Weather


‘Worst in 25 years’
Part of the damaged deck at The Rarotongan Resort. CALEB FOTHERINGHAM/22071340

Forty beachfront rooms have become unusable at The Rarotongan Resort as large waves combined with king tides smashed through the windows flooding these luxurious rooms and leaving behind an inch of sand.

The main resort dining room at mid-morning Wednesday was covered in ankle deep water as waves continued to crash through the destroyed deck.

The waves started causing problems at around 9pm Tuesday night and continued hammering the resort on Wednesday – more damage was expected to be caused last night and early today.

Resort owner Tata Crocombe said the damage felt “like another punch in the gut” after the resort was closed for nearly two years from Covid-19.

“We’ve never seen damage like this in 25 years. This is a huge setback just as we were finding our feet.”

Crocombe said he expected some damage when the first waves came into the resort but not to the extent it became yesterday.

“The thing is we don’t know if this is over yet, we don’t know if we will come back tomorrow (Thursday).

The Rarotongan Resort executive chairman Tata Crocombe assesses the extent of damage at his resort. CALEB FOTHERINGHAM/22071344

“If it just stopped here, I would say it’s about a million dollars’ worth of damage but last night (Tuesday) when we left at 2am the damage was a third of this, so who’s to say it’s not going to get worse.”

Guests whose rooms were damaged were relocated to spend the night in common areas like the games room. Other guests shared rooms with visitors who were not staying on the ground floor.

Crocombe said it would take a few weeks to get the damaged rooms operational again. He said the resort was looking at relocating affected guests into other hotels. People planning to visit in the next few weeks may also be asked to reschedule their stay.

“The impact is very localised, these (beachfront) rooms are being severely damaged and then around the corner there are rooms that are untouched.”

Guests Malcolm Stuart and Nicola Tod from Wellington went out for dinner at Little Polynesia on Tuesday night and had to wade back to their room in reef shoes.

“There wasn’t one drop of water in our room, next door water was running out of the room through the door,” Stuart said.

The Rarotongan Resort beachfront room after Tuesday night’s king tides. Photo: CALEB FOTHERINGHAM/22071327

Tod said she felt a bit nervous of the waves, which she put down to watching too many movies.

The couple said some guests in the neighboring rooms were worried and created a barricade out of chairs, others dug trenches in an attempt to keep the water out.

However, Tod said there was a collective atmosphere amongst the guests.

“We administered a bottle of wine to a few that needed a drink and a chocolate for the kids.”

Other guests Chris and Leanne Hubmann stayed in one of the beachfront rooms and woke up to ankle deep water in their room  

“We just stayed in there, shifted all our stuff up onto the tables, went to have a chat at reception to see what to do, got a broom and just started sweeping the water out,” Chris said.

The couple’s daughter Isla was also in the room.

“I was kind of confused because I wondered how it got through the doors but it wasn’t that scary, just kind of confusing,” she said.

King tides destroyed The Rarotongan Resort deck costing the resort over a million dollars in total damages. CALEB FOTHERINGHAM/22071338

The family lives on Wellington’s South Coast, which regularly gets battered with strong wind and large swells.

Leanne said there was no use getting upset with what had happened.

Meanwhile, staff were busy attempting to tidy the affected area yesterday despite waves continuing to bring more debris into the resort.

Maraea Tuakeu, who looks after the resort’s activities equipment, was busy cleaning with the rest of the staff but was upbeat despite the circumstances.

“We did a lot (of cleaning) but it keeps coming back but we don’t give up, we’re not going to give up.

“We’re still going to continue cleaning up.”


Simone Jackson on 14/07/2022

Our thoughts are with you from NZ, having been over there less than two weeks ago, stay safe beautiful people of Rarotonga! 😊