Cyclone Gabrielle and Auckland flooding - public health media responses - 2023

Visit Auckland Emergency Management for updates on cyclone Gabrielle and flooding in your area.

Visit our Flooding information page for health advice on floods and cleaning up.

Media responses are available below on:


Health advice during and after a power outage

Heavy rain and strong winds are currently impacting Auckland. In addition to the dangers from flooding and any immediate health hazards, there is also a risk of power outages.

Download Auckland Council’s leaflet on Coping during a power outage (PDF) for advice on how to get prepared and how to stay safe if you’re impacted. Please also continue to follow updates from Auckland Emergency Management.

Contact your GP if you’re concerned about health issues, or call Healthline for free on 0800 611 116. In an emergency call 111.


Mental wellbeing and emotional support

We appreciate this will be a very difficult time for many people.

It is understandable to feel sad, distressed, worried, confused, anxious or angry, even if you’ve not been impacted personally by the flooding. Everyone reacts differently to difficult events, and some may find this time more challenging than others. Remember it’s ok to not feel ok.

For help with anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, call or text Need to Talk? on 1737 to speak to a trained counsellor for free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Other organisations that provide mental wellbeing support include:

Specialist emotional support services for young people include:

Please reach out for help if you need it. Kia kaha.


What to do if you have gastroenteritis (tummy bug) symptoms

Floodwater can often be contaminated with sewage, farm run off and other hazardous materials.

One of the main risks from contact with floodwater is gastroenteritis, which causes diarrhoea and vomiting. There are many different types of gastroenteritis, and the severity of the illness varies.

Most people who develop gastroenteritis can self-manage their symptoms at home, but it can be more serious for those who are very young, very old, or, have underlying medical conditions.

Symptoms, treatment and health advice

If you develop symptoms that could be gastroenteritis and need health advice contact your doctor, or call Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116. It’s important people who are unwell stay hydrated. You should drink plenty of water and other fluids. Clear fluids, such as water and diluted cordials are best. Ice blocks are a good way of keeping children hydrated. Some people with severe gastroenteritis caused by bacteria may be given antibiotics. To reduce the risk of passing on gastroenteritis to others you should regularly wash your hands with soapy water and dry them thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food.


If you have contact with flood water, flooded property or items contaminated with flood water you should wash your hands with soap and water and dry them thoroughly afterwards. It’s especially important to do this before eating or preparing food. For more information on cleaning and restoring your property visit

Disease surveillance

While there is a risk of an increase in gastroenteritis across Auckland following the flooding, this has not been recorded in notifications to public health so far. Most people who develop gastroenteritis self-manage at home, and people’s stool samples are only tested if they seek medical care and have acute symptoms or if they are linked to a cluster of other cases. Given this (and the delay between people being infected, becoming unwell and then only a small sub-set being tested), any increase in public health notifications is likely to be small in the immediate short-term.


Cleaning up flooded property safely

There are potential health risks associated with contaminated flood water. It can be assumed that all flood water is potentially contaminated by run-off from the surrounding environment e.g. this might be farm run-off with faecal matter from animals, sewage, diesel/ petrol from roads etc.

Where a home, office, or retail premises has been affected by flood water above floor level, all soft furnishings will need to be disposed of or effectively decontaminated. This includes carpets, curtains, soft furniture, and any other fittings. In some cases, thorough cleaning (i.e boiled or washed and treated with a disinfectant) followed by exposure to sunlight will be sufficient, but some furnishings and fittings will have to be thrown out.

Each situation needs to be assessed individually. Anything that is discarded should be disposed of appropriately rather than leaving it lying around for weeks. A general rule is if you can’t put a soft furnishing in a washing machine it must be thrown out. 

If any food is affected by flood water, or fridges or freezers were left without power such that food has not been chilled for more than two hours, this food will need to be thrown out. Any food premises will have to take extra care to ensure everything is decontaminated. For more information see the advice below on food safety.

Additional information on cleaning up your home:

  • If you are concerned about your home or building and would like to request a building assessment, please call 0800 22 22 00.
  • Always work safely when cleaning up after a flood by wearing protective clothing and washing hands thoroughly after clean-up and before handling food.
  • For additional information on restoring your property, building safety and making an insurance claim visit Auckland Emergency Management.


Public health advice on food safety following the floods

Contaminated food

Floodwater can carry bacteria that can contaminate food.

  • Throw away all food and drinking water that has come in contact with floodwater, including things stored in containers. It is impossible to know if containers have been damaged and the seals compromised.
  • Do not eat garden produce if the soil has been flooded. Clean up and remove debris and sprinkle gardens with lime.
  • Do not eat shellfish from the river mouth or harbour after a flood.
  • Follow any boil water notice instructions from your local authorities, if they are issued.

For more information visit the Ministry of Health website:


Preparing and making food

Maintaining hygiene around food preparation and cooking is really important, as surfaces and utensils may have been contaminated during the flood.

  • Always wash and dry your hands before preparing food – if water is in short supply, keep some in a bowl with disinfectant.
  • Ensure all kitchen utensils and food preparation surfaces are clean before use. Rinse thoroughly in safe water, then disinfect by immersing for 1 minute in a solution of 500 ml (about 2 cups) of plain, unperfumed household bleach in 10 litres of water. Rinse again in safe water. Alternatively, boil all utensils for 1 minute and let cool.
  • Decontaminate any surfaces that may have come into contact with floodwater.
  • Cook food thoroughly.
  • Cover all food with plastic wrap or store in waterproof containers.
  • Rubbish containing food scraps must be protected from flies and rats by wrapping the scraps or putting them in a sealed container.

For more information on food safety visit the Ministry of Primary Industries website:


Ministry of Health advice on flooding

For health advice on cleaning and restoring your property visit the Ministry of Health website:


Contact with floodwater

People should avoid floodwater where possible and children should not play in it.

In addition to the danger of drowning and debris, floodwater may also be contaminated with sewage, faecal matter, farm run off and other hazardous materials. There are many potential health risks from this, including gastroenteritis (diarrhoea and vomiting), skin infections and eye infections.

If you have contact with flood water, flooded property or items contaminated with flood water, you should wash your hands with soap and water and dry them thoroughly afterwards. You should also do this after going to the toilet and before preparing or eating any food. Throw away all food and drinking water that has come in contact with floodwater, including things stored in containers.

If you feel unwell after coming into contact with floodwater contact your doctor, or call Healthline for free on 0800 611 116.

For further health advice around floodwater visit

For the latest updates and advice on the flooding visit

For advice on water quality and swimming conditions visit SafeSwim: 

For health advice call Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116
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