The first flood I remember was in 1954. We lived down the end of Gerrand Road and the house was right beside the canal. I remember getting on the kitchen table, four of us kids, and a dinghy coming up to the backdoor and taking us somewhere where the water wasn’t. I would have been maybe 9.
And then the next big one was in 1981. We lived next to the Old Boys Clubrooms. I saw waves coming across the field and the whole thing was like a sea. The waves hit that building and came over the top of it. The water came to our door and we were told to get out.
We moved to my brother’s house up on the hill, and there were four families living in that three bedroom home; everyone escaping the flood. We had all the animals in the garage – dogs and cats and whatever. The first few days, living at my brother’s house, I was just wishing for a dry towel. We had nothing but the clothes on our back.
From the house, you could see down on to the Criterion Bridge. We saw these huge trees coming down the river at speed and hit the bridge. How that bridge was still standing after that, I don’t know. Then it was, gee, did I pay the insurance? Have I got enough insurance? We found the insurance bill floating in the water and we were underinsured, but we were both still lucky enough to have work to go to and life has to go on.
It was a time of great uncertainty for a lot of people. Most had never experienced anything like that before. Some areas were absolutely devastated. One of the saddest things was driving around and seeing people’s lives on the front lawn waiting for the trucks to take them away. All their personal possessions. The other thing I remember was Waikino, and all the people’s belongings in the trees. A town basically gone.
The way it affected me, personally, was every time it rained and the football field would start filling up I would think here we go again. It never leaves me, even today. It got to the stage where I thought I am not doing this anymore so we shifted to higher ground.
But you know, the town has come alive again and now people visit or come to live here and they have no idea. The town has the possibility to flood a lot but because of the work that has been done the worry is not the same. We have better pumps; stopbanks have been made higher and wider.
If the region doesn’t keep up the good work then the people in this area will find themselves back there again, I am sure. It’s easy for new people here to say “why do we have to pay that? What are we getting for that?” Well, how do you explain? It’s just got to be or we go back to the old days.
Photo: Thames Valley Gazette, 1981.
"One of the saddest things was driving around and seeing people’s lives on the front lawn waiting for the trucks to take them away."
This newspaper, published by Hauraki Publishers during the Thames Valley flood of 1981, shows how flooding impacts on lives.