Newspaper Article 1929 – Menace of Flood




Commencing with a steady drizzle on Monday week, rain fell so consistently that by Wednesday evening, when a lull was experienced, practically all the low-lying areas adjacent to rivers in the Hawke’s Bay district from Waipukurau North were under water, most of the rivers having broken their banks. Early on Wednesday evening Meeanee Village and Taradale, a sin all township a few miles from Napier, wore in great danger of flooding from the Tutaekuri River, the banks of which were in a dangerous state.

Gangs of men were working feverishly to stop the gaps in the crumbling banks of the river, and the work had been carried on right through an anxious night by every able-bodied man in Meeanee, which nestles right under the river banks. Most danger was feared in this locality, but there were other places where considerable damage was done.

Services Interrupted.

Between Napier and Hastings the railway line was flooded and the mail train from Wellington was unable to get through to its terminus, passengers and mails having to be transferred to other modes of transport. The railway omnibus service between the two towns was interrupted, the buses having to make a long detour. Numerous slips occurred on the Napier-Wairoa Road and two fords were impassable. Consequently service cars were unable to make the trip. Several cars from the Wairoa end, which was not affected to the some extent as the southern portion, were trapped at Tangoio, and exciting moments were experienced before safety was reached.

When darkness fell on Wednesday evening the plains surrounding Napier were a sheet of water, which at many places was over the fence tops. Fortunately farmers were given ample warning, and in most cases stock was removed to safety.  Danger was foreseen on Tuesday week at Meeanee (?) where in flood times the Tutaekuri invariably breaks its banks.  Heavy seas backed up the water in the river, and to add to the difficulties and danger, debris banked up at the bridge in the village, acting as a runway for the water which rose over the decking and poured down  the approaches to  the low country on both sides.

Race Against River.

The river was then twelve and a half feet above normal level and in places was beginning to burst  its banks. Engineers in Napier left immediately for the spot and with residents worked doggedly practically all night stopping the breaks. The obstruction at the bridge cleared itself and the approaches were dammed. Then began a stern race to heighten the banks near the village with bags filled with earth and to stop the gaps with tussock and anything else that would serve the purpose. It was a hard race, but the villagers won. At least they saved their properties, although the river broke through in three other places less important and not accessible.

On Wednesday afternoon the river had risen another three inches and by evening a further rise was threatened. It was calculated that three hours would suffice to reach the greatest danger point,  when the fate of the surrounding country would be decided.

Conditions in Esk Valley.

In the Esk Valley district, about 12 miles north of Napier, through which runs the Esk River, the danger and damage were not great, the river having cleared its mouth and drained away sufficient water without trouble. However, the road leading north to Taupo was blocked for some time, but roadmen effected a clearance without any trouble.

The breaking of the banks of the Ngaruroro River resulted in the flooding of the railway line and main roads between Napier and Hastings so that at 10.30 on Wednesday morning the bus service was stopped. A special train service was then instituted, but a few minutes before the 3 p.m. south-bound express left word was received that the line was under deep water in two places and was deemed dangerous.

Buses were used to take passengers and luggage by a roundabout route to Hastings, where the train was eventually dispatched at 6 o’clock on Wednesday evening.

On Wednesday right the Ngaruroro River seemed to form the greatest menace. An inspection showed the position to be very grave. The area affected lies between Napier and Hastings. The roads late in the afternoon were in an alarming state and the flood waters had reached a point much higher than in the flood of 1927. Fences had disappeared entirely, and on all sides of the roads the view consisted solely of an area of flooded farmlands.



Following 36 hours’ steady rain the Tukituki River was higher than it has been for a great many years, and in many places it has overflowed its banks. Low-lying areas near the river were inundated and the water entered several houses, residents having to vacate their homes.

Reports from Takapau, Porangahau and Tikotino [Tikokino] indicate heavy flooding. Serious loss of stock, particularly sheep, is feared.  Lake Hatume [Hatuma] overflowed its banks in the afternoon, and the waters were now spreading over a big area.  A portion of the Waipukurau racecourse was inundated and also portions of Russell and Central Parks. Road communication with the Fast Coast and Wellington was interrupted. Residents who have been in the district for 30 years state they have never known such a flood

Little damage, has been done in the borough area.




With a considerable lessening of the rain on Thursday and the rapid fall of the rivers the flood lost its menacing nature. There had been no loss of life, as in the floods of 1897 and 1924 but the latest reports indicate that when a tally is taken it will be found that several thousand sheep and many cattle have been drowned in the flooded areas.

The Pakowhai district seems to have suffered particularly heavily. It is known that at least 150 lambs were drowned on a property at Brookfields and it is feared that that estimate will be found to have been exceeded. The owner had 9100 head on the property. A total of 6500 were got safely away and 2600 were left. The employees have been unable to gain access to the property and it is not known how the sheep left are faring. This particular owner will also lose all the grass from 800 acres. Another landowner in the same area lost 400 sheep by drowning. He was able to rescue his pigs and about 700 sheep. Three hundred sheep are said to have been lost on a third owner’s land and 400 on a property adjoining it.

Stock Removed to Safety.

Efforts at rescuing stock from Pakowhai properties were continued on Thursday and calves, cattle and sheep passed up the flooded roads to safety at frequent intervals.

One resident considers that when the flood-waters subside they will leave a deposit of at least 4ft. of silt and that much of the read will have to be reformed or at least remetalled.

With admirable perseverance Railway Department officials in Napier and Hastings kept to their task of maintaining a train service between the two towns and both the ordinary schedule trains and emergency trains were running at fairly frequent intervals on Friday. For a mile from Hastings the line was clear and then the flood area began. Toward Pakowhai nothing could be seen but a poplar avenue in the distance, tops of willows and fences, haystacks and water. Not a blade of grass was visible. On the other side of the railway conditions were similar. Trains entering the flood slowed down gradually until they barely moved. In the deepest parts the water was almost up to the top steps of the carriages.

Thousands of Acres Flooded.

At Whakatu Bridge the Ngaruroro Rivers was a raging torrent, and the waters were not more than a foot below the stringers of the bridge. Quantities of driftwood were jammed against the piles and obviously formed a most serious obstacle to the passage of the flood waters.

From Clive onwards to Napier for a distance of six miles the road was clear in spite of the fact that the tide was at its height, but there were signs that the water must have covered the road to a depth of 4ft. or 5ft. during the night.

Excellent work was done by 15 residents of Haumoana, who worked for several hours widening and deepening the river mouth.

Original digital file


Non-commercial use

Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ)

This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ).


Commercial Use

Please contact us for information about using this material commercially.

Format of the original

Newspaper article

Date published

22 May 1929


Auckland Weekly News

Accession number


Do you know something about this record?

Please note we cannot verify the accuracy of any information posted by the community.

Supporters and sponsors

We sincerely thank the following businesses and organisations for their support.