Storms are nothing new for Kiri Te Kanawa cat Chairman Mao, and he took Cyclone Gabrielle in his stride as did the rest of the Gisborne village’s 300 residents.
Alison McKay, Mao’s companion, said he arrived at her home during a storm just prior to moving into Kiri Te Kanawa five years ago, and has stayed with her since.
So Cyclone Gabrielle barely ruffled his fur from his warm and dry vantage point in her lovely apartment on the first floor.
“He wasn’t too fussed about it,’’ Alison says.
“He looked up a couple of times when the wind was gusting in and bending the windows, but then went back to sleep.’’
Alison, a retired teacher, has lived in Hawkes Bay and the East Coast for all of her 88 years and was a principal during Cyclone Bola in 1988.
She knows all too well the devastation a cyclone brings and can’t believe the extent of the devastation to the Gisborne and Hawkes Bay.
She feels a bit guilty talking about the storm because living in the village meant she came through well.
“We all felt so safe here at the village and we are so lucky to have so many lovely staff looking after everything we need.
“Because we live here, we had it a bit cushy compared to everyone else. I’m very independent and my family knew I’d be fine because of where we are, I was as worried about them as they were about me.’’
Alison is a keen baker and has been keeping the hard-working team at Kiri Te Kanawa going with banana and carrot cakes.
She is full of admiration for the staff who worked through, and for the team who flew in by helicopter to help.
“They’re a wonderful team and there is a lot of work to do, especially for the gardeners, so I’m doing what I normally do and delivering cake. They worked through no matter what was happening at home for them which I think is extraordinary.’’
In the meantime her friend Mao – named after his very distinctive Meow – is happy to go on his daily walks with her as they watch the clean-up continue.