Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 24, July 1980


Noah was the worlds leading authority; I will grant that but, next to him - well, I'll tell my story and then you can judge who rates second leading expert.

As I recall, it started in the spring of 1959 and the place was Kerepehi, on the Hauraki Plains. Rain? Someone really pulled the plug out that time. After the first fortnight we had had enough rain to satisfy even the farmers. The mud, which, on the Plains, normally seeped in through our boot lace holes we now found, with some consternation, was flowing in at the ankles and the crickets had turned to frogs.

The section where we lived in Kaikahu Road was elevated - in two very small spots - and on these islands stood our two goats, peering at each other forlornly through the rain. At least they would have been if the house hadn't been right in between them. And speaking of the house, my wife used to lean out of the window and check the water level with a dip stick to calculate how long it would be before the water rose through the floor boards and the plumbing was quite useless. At Netherton the river had breached the stop bank and things looked very serious.

If my car had been in the garage I would have almost needed a diving suit to get down to it but the most cruel blow of all came at regular intervals. There are times when I must have peace and tranquility but alas, our toilet was down the yard and I have never been so uncomfortable........

But I soon found out that the Hauraki Plains was not the only district affected by water. As our family moved from Kerepehi to the Eastern Bay of Plenty, so did the storm clouds. I think that it was in 1961 that my son and I got a distress call from the Salvation Army Major stationed at Opotiki and asking for assistance following the flooding of that town and it is with some pride that I recall that we were the first outsiders allowed in by the police.

What a scene awaited us as we followed the grader down a narrow canyon in the centre of what had once been a road surrounded by a sea of evil smelling tan coloured mud. From trees, hedges and fences above the mud line was pitifully draped clothing and bedding, drying in the sunshine from a now cloudless sky. Here and there showed giant footprints in the mud from the houses to these points. A flood is usually envisaged as water sweeping through an area and leaving that area clean but nothing could have been more remote from this condition and we marvelled that a people, so overcome with its recent experience, could fight back, clean its belongings and start again.

We were able to get the Major's truck mobile fairly quickly to deliver dry clothing and bedding and when she rang the local Traffic Officer to advise him of her intention, he had to admit defeat - his car was immobile. You see, she had also mentioned that the truck was unregistered, had no warrant of Fitness but, was mobile!

During those days we turned blocks of mud back into motor vehicles and got them running again but it took about a day just to get each vehicle mobile. Gallons of water were used after we had dug our way into each motor and flushing fluids were used over and over again but, somehow, it all came right.

Did I say "all"? No, not all, for many treasures were lost forever, as were the lifetime work records & manuscript of our dear friend who, through this crisis time had thought only of the needs of others - Major Elizabeth Smith.