Date posted: 04/05/2023 5 min read

CAs pitch in following Cyclone Gabrielle’s New Zealand devastation

When Cyclone Gabrielle devastated New Zealand’s North Island in February, CAs Anthony Rohan and Stuart Darvill pitched in to help in the best way they could, through financial and on-the-ground assistance.

In Brief

  • Cyclone Gabrielle is estimated to be the costliest tropical cyclone on record in the southern hemisphere, with damages estimated to be at least NZ$13.5 billion.
  • Stuart Darvill CA and his firm Darvill Mellors kicked in NZ$50,000 for the relief effort.
  • Anthony ‘Antz’ Rohan CA travelled from the South Island to spend a week offering on-the-ground assistance to devastated communities in the north.

“You never think of your country as being one where people are going to die in natural disasters,” says Stuart Darvill CA, partner at Darvill Mellors & Co in Wellington. “But the Auckland floods followed quickly by Cyclone Gabrielle made it all the more real.”

Cyclone Gabrielle hit the North Island of New Zealand in early February 2023. Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne, West Auckland and many other communities experienced flooding, landslides, closed roads, and broken infrastructure, with the overall damage bill estimated to hit NZ$13.5 billion once the wind and water subsided.

For Darvill, there was a feeling of helplessness as he watched the television news, taking in the damage being done by the cyclone. New Zealand is a relatively small place. Although he and his staff are based down in the south of the North Island, he had recently been up north taking his son to a cricket match, and his staff had family and friends in the area.

Anthony ‘Antz’ Rohan CA runs a practice called Fairground in the South Island, specialising in supporting not-for-profits and for-purpose-enterprises. He was also deeply affected by what he saw on the news and social media.

“In the weeks that followed, you would see images coming across the news and on social media, the true scale of what was happening up there.”

Given what they had seen on the news about the situation up north, Darvill and Rohan both decided to help in the best way they could and in a way playing to the skills and resources they had available to them.

Funding recovery

For Darvill, it was an email sent out to the partners and staff of his 25-strong firm, which is a generalist CA company carrying out work like professional services, advisory and compliance.

“We were not on the ground there so we couldn’t do anything physically, but what we could do was help financially,” says Darvill.

His firm kicked in NZ$50,000 to an appeal being run by local news outlet Stuff. For a relatively small firm it was a significant amount, with Darvill noting that “we’re not big ballers.”

“We didn’t think just kicking in NZ$50,000 would have an impact,” he says. “The contribution needed to mean something to them and to us. It needed to be more than a token gesture.”

On the ground

Rohan has been a New Zealand Response Team volunteer with Civil Defence (the Australian equivalent of the State Emergency Service (SES)) since the early 2010s. The call went out for volunteers to travel north, and so a team flew up and spent a seven-day deployment working in isolated communities that had been cut off by landslides.

They helicoptered into a 2000-strong community called Tūtira and based themselves at the local school, set up as an emergency response headquarters. People from the surrounding areas would come in for fuel, food, water and emotional support.

“We were tasked to support the community because they had been running on adrenaline for 16 days,” Rohan says. Team members would also head out with community members to do welfare checks, with many properties damaged or destroyed by the landslides and silt.

“We were also feeding back information to Civil Defence headquarters because until we got there, they were getting a lot of their intel second-hand.”

Support after disaster

“I think one of the things I learned is that we can all do a bit more to help our fellow man,” says Darvill. “As CAs we can actually give back on a day-to-day basis to our communities.”

Rohan agrees, noting CAs have a lot of soft skills which can really come to the fore in times of emergency and disaster.

“When you’re an accountant and think about volunteering, what usually comes to mind is the treasurer for a local club,” he says. “But we have a skill set that runs deeper than that. We can help with mental-health first aid, as sometimes we have clients coming into our offices going through the worst time in their lives, and we are the only people they can talk to.

“These skills can transfer directly into an emergency situation as well.”

“When you’re an accountant and think about volunteering, what usually comes to mind is the treasurer for a local club, but we have a skill set that runs deeper than that.”
Anthony Rohan CA, Fairground