Residents mourn 'a great little soul'
'There was nothing we could have done for her'
A woman who died in a landslide near Marahau has been described as a lovely, bubbly, kind and artistic woman.
"She was a great little soul," neighbour Tim Wraight said.
Jude Hivon, 63, was killed when a landslide engulfed her house at Sandy Bay north of Motueka yesterday afternoon.
The Marahau Volunteer Rural Fire Force joined neighbours in desperate attempts to rescue Ms Hivon.
Craig McDonald, who co-owns Old McDonald's Farm in Marahau, was one of the volunteers. He and other firefighters who attended the scene knew Ms Hivon well.
Mr McDonald said it had been "pretty traumatic" for the firefighters and they would be holding a debriefing.
He said Ms Hivon was well-known in the Marahau community and she had also lived at Awaroa.
Ms Hivon, a mother and grandmother, was like a step-aunty to him and his partner Tracy, Mr McDonald said.
"She was very kind; if anyone else ever had a death she was always there."
She was also artistic and did a lot of painting and drawings.
Mr McDonald said Ms Hivon's partner lived farther up the road in Otuwhero Valley and they had gone up to tell him of the tragedy yesterday afternoon, before he could drive past her demolished house and see it.
Police have referred the case to the coroner.
Steve Franklin, 32, raised the alarm when he saw the wreckage of Ms Hivon's house about 1.15pm as he checked the roads for fallen trees. A landslide about 200m by 50m had hit the rear of the house and pushed it from its foundations.
Neighbours rushed to the house with shovels, poles and a chainsaw to try to find Ms Hivon, who was the sole occupant.
Ms Hivon was found at the back of the house submerged in the mud.
Large slips on the Kaiteriteri-Sandy Bay Rd prevented emergency services from getting to the scene and some had to walk 500m to the house.
The slip behind Ms Hivon's house was unstable while people worked to free her.
Mr Wraight, a neighbour and sculptor, said he and friends had just started band practice when Mr Franklin alerted them to the slip.
No-one had heard the slip which he said was "over in seconds".
"It was a huge slip, it completely demolished her house. We went over there but there was nothing we could have done for her."
"We went out there and then the local fire brigade turned up, they had to cut their way through trees and slips to get there. Another slip on the Kaiteriteri Rd stopped other emergency services . . . everyone got there as fast as they could, but there was nothing we could have done for her."
Mr Wraight said the weekend's heavy rain turned drains into streams and creeks into rivers.
"The estuary was full of brown water all day; it was like the tide was in all the day. We really copped it."
Residents of the small Otuwhero's four remaining houses were evacuated to Marahau where they stayed with friends.
"It's a great community and everyone was there. We were cut off but all right."
Abel Tasman Aquataxi owner Gavin Alborn said: "She [Ms Hivon] was a lovely, bubbly lady, always had time to say gidday and check out on how the kids were."
Ms Hivon had lived at Awaroa for a long time and had worked in skifields over the winter, he said.
In a story in the Nelson Mail in 2007 Ms Hivon said she was accepted into the Elam art school, and also started a degree in architecture, fine arts and civil engineering, but family reasons meant she had to stop.
She had dyslexia, which she had not realised until she was 41, and had tried many techniques of dealing with it.
She told the Nelson Mail in 2007 that she had led "a very interesting life", and her dyslexia had enabled her to be creative in lots of different ways, which was her lifeblood.
Her friend and teacher, Konstanca Friedrich-Palzer of Davis Dyslexia Correction Programme in Kaiteriteri-Sandy Bay Rd described Ms Hivon as "a living heart".
"Everything came from her feeling and her heart. She had a very creative mind. Even though she was dyslexic, her medium to communicate was her art and her language."
She was "the most caring person".
"We had a really lovely relationship, woman to woman and mother to mother.
"The last few years that I had the privilege to be part of her life, she developed such a lovely sense of forgiving and accepting people as they were. She was very special."
Ms Friedrich-Palzer said Ms Hivon had known a lot of people in the community and said everyone was "extremely privileged" to have had her in their lives.
Landowner Hermann Seifried, of Seifried Estate Winery, said he never imagined the hillside behind the house he had rented to Ms Hivon would be prone to slipping.
Like most of the 11-hectare property, the hill was covered with native bush, which Mr Seifried thought would stabilise it during heavy rainfall.
"It's the steep, clear-felled land you think of."
The house was already built when he purchased the block around 2007.
Ms Hivon rented the former farm worker's cottage a year later, tending the garden while working on paintings and craft projects.
"She was good at finding little things and polishing them up, getting an empty bottle and making it so you can put flowers in it."
Resident farmer Mr McDonald said Marahau had been hit hard by the rain.
Manager of Marahau hostel The Barn, Peter Hartley, said although there was a lot of surface flooding over the weekend, the low tide had taken most of the water away.
"We're very fortunate compared to some people," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News