Flooding In 1939

Evening Post 12 December 1938
query Taita

Evening Post 17 August 1939
query Taita

Evening Post 12 December 1939

“I am 64 years of age and never have I known such a flood as

we experienced yesterday,” said Mr. Frank Benge, of Te Marua,

this morning. His opinion was seconded by his brother, Mr.

Harry Benge, who has resided in the neighbourhood all his

life. Mr. F. Benge”s comparatively frail bridge has withstood

all the efforts of the flood waters, whereas the modern

reinforced concrete structure over the Mangaroa Stream has

The water at Te Marua rose to a height of over 25 feet,

completely covering Mr. Benge”s suspension bridge and flooding

the main road to a depth of some four feet. This morning the

road was covered to a depth of over two feet with driftwood

and other debris through which the Public Works Department”s

men were cutting a track to allow the passage of traffic.

Traffic was, however, completely blocked a little further on,

where the concrete bridge, built some ten or twelve years ago,

was closed, blocking traffic over the Mangaroa hill. The

Mangaroa Stream, which rose to the level of the flooring of

the bridge, scoured under the centre pier, which has fallen

about six inches, letting down the bridge in the centre. When

the water falls an examination will be made to see if the

bridge, which, except for a dip in the middle, is still

intact, will be safe for traffic. At present the bridge is not

greasy needed, as traffic over the Rimutaka hill is completely

blocked by slips.
Just beyond the Mangaroa bridge a road leads to the left to

the Maymorn timberlands. A little way along this road is the

private Maymorn totara bridge 80 feet high and of eight spans.

Four spans of this have been swept away.
In the Mangaroa Valley and Whiteman”s Valley traffic is at a

standstill, five bridges having been destroyed.
Possibly the Mangaroa Valley felt the storm more severely

than other places. Many houses were inundated, many of them

ten feet above normal water level. Farmers here have been

heavy losers, as hay and other crops have been ruined. One

farmer”s loss will run into three figures. Many weekend baches

in Mangaroa were flooded.
At Maoribank, on the Mangaroa Road, a house on the hillside,

owned by a Mr. Christie, slipped down twelve feet, and is now

overhanging a cliff face. A child was apparently the only

occupant of the house. She was rescued by the occupants of the

Maoribank tearooms, who heard the house creaking as it moved.
The Moonshine Road down to the river became impassable early

yesterday and the shop near the Moonshine bridge and all the

houses on the road running parallel to the river had to be

evacuated. These places were flooded to a depth of several

Mr. Cottle and other owners of stock were heavy losers, many

head of cattle being drowned.
Several residents at the junction of the Moonshine and Main

roads also had to move.
About half-way down the Moonshine Road, close to the

residence of Mr. J McRandall, the current was rushing over the

road to a depth of nearly six feet.
Water from the Hutt River over-flowing lowlying ground found its way back into the river by a roundabout route at Silverstream. It was here that an Electric Power Board lorry was almost swept away, vehicles belonging to the Upper Hutt Borough Council having to be requisitioned to save it.
On the Akatarawa Road the old concrete bridge is blocked for

traffic, a pier having been completely swept away. This bridge

is not reinforced. Along the Akatarawa Road there are numerous

slips, and even though the bridge is passable traffic cannot

get through.
At Silverstream the road was still impassable at 6 a.m.

today, but the water was receding rapidly. Debris showed that

the water had been at least four feet deep in this

neighbourhood. A slight erosion on the eastern approach to the

new Silverstream a bridge was being repaired today.
At Taita market gardeners and poultry farmers have been heavy

losers. One poultry farmer on the river bank lost 800 head of

poultry and will be the loser to the extent of several hundred

pounds. Mr. Searle, a River Board employee, lost two cows, and

the River Board a horse, besides which the board had just cut

its annual supply of hay from the area at the end of Mabey

Road. This area was comsletely flooded and the hay swept away.
The main road was completely flooded from a point north of

the railway bridge at Silverstream to well down the

Taita Gorge. In the northern part of the flood the river was

pouring across in a steady stream on to the lowlying

ground to the east of the road. Further along the road the

water deepened to a depth estimated by River Board employees

at about 5ft.
At about 4 o”clock yesterday afternoon all traffic was stopped at the small bridge opposite the Manor Park

tearooms. The tearooms are isolated and the owner was able to

save only a few of his belongings. He stated that his wife had

joined him from England last week and it seemed strange that

after the dangers of a trip under war conditions, she

should have to face this.
The main road was quite clear from this point into

Wellington, although in High Street, Lower Hutt, the water

entirely covered the road at the height of the flood.

The cause of this was the closing of the flood gates through

the river rising. This had the effect of backing up the

surface water which flowed along High Street like a mill-race. In (sic) was so deep that a car stalled there last

night in the centre of the business part of the town.

Footpaths in Laing”s Road were completely covered with

water to a depth of several inches.
The Melling Bridge remained open until about 5 p.m. and cars

were able to pass freely, though the water was not many

feet below the bridge decking. After that the river seemed to

swing abruptly to the left and inundated the lowlying ground between the bridge and Melling Station. An hour later there was several feet of water at this point. The bridge was a vantage-point for sightseers until a late hour yesterday.
The Western Hutt Road remained open and in reasonably good

condition, despite several small slips. At points on the road

rocks came down from the hill and it was necessary for

motorists to drive with caution. At Silverstream, where the

Western Hutt Road joins the main road by way of the new

bridge, the river appeared to have spread to twice its

normal width and among the willows to the southeast of the

bridge river water could be seen pouring across the main road.

Mr. A. J. Gearing, secretary of the Hutt River Board, stated this morning that the flood in the Hutt Valley was certainly a record.
The height of the water, he said, was not a true indication of the volume of water flowing down the river, as since the last flood in 1931 the channel of the river, especially in the lower reaches, had been considerably lowered, thus making for a quicker getaway. Nevertheless, the rise at the bridge was a foot more than that of 1931. The height of the present flood was 14ft above normal.
Mr. Gearing also reported that the river was falling rapidly and that so far as could be ascertained the board”s protective works had stood up to the strain remarkably well. There was an erosion, which might be somewhat serious, in the Taita Gorge at the spot where considerable work was undertaken some years ago by the Public Works Department. The full extent of the damage could not be ascertained till the river went down. There had been erosion behind Dickies and at the end of Mabey Road, and the adjoining area.
As far as could be seen the danger points at Belmont and Pitcaithley”s, where trouble was experienced during the last flood, came through safely.

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