The Kerikeri Flood 1981

In 1981 there was an extreme weather event that had a drastic effect on Kerikeri. 300mm of rain fell in 10 hours in Kerikeri and 417 mm of rain fell in the Puketi forest. This caused the Kerikeri River to rise and water entered the Stone Store and Kemp House. Trees and flotsam coming down the river lodged under the bridge across the Kerikeri River at the Stone Store basin. This back-up of water made river levels rise even further. The water was flowing straight over the railings on the bridge. All the boats and their moorings in the Stone Store basin were swept away, as were all boats and moorings at Waipapa Landing. A large tree went straight through a block of flats close to Waipapa Landing bridge, coming out the front. A woman who was living in one of the flats was swept away and drowned.

Further out in the Kerikeri Inlet boats, some still attached to their moorings, were swirling around. All the flat ground out toward Waipapa was under water and a bridge on state Highway 10 was swept away. One woman in a two story A-frame house had to climb up into the second story of her house as the water level in the lower level climbed 1 metre up the wall. Thankfully, the water level dropped early in the morning.

Much of this rain had fallen in the Puketi Forest, and added to the rain that fell locally, had come down the Waipapa and Kerikeri rivers. Most of the flat ground on State Highway 10 between Springbank Rd and Waipapa was under water.

The water level was high enough to go two or three feet up the walls inside Kemp House and the Stone Store. Kemp House was standing on its original stone piles, and fortunately did not move. This flood lead to concerns that the Kemp House and Stone Store could be damaged irreparably and that the Kemp House could easily be swept away. The bridge acted as a dam when logs and other debris were unable to go under it. It was decided that the old bridge should be removed and replaced by a foot bridge that was higher, had no piers to block the river, and did not cause the damming effect. It also meant that the road that ran past the Stone Store would need replacing. This happened in 2008 when the Kerikeri Heritage Bypass was opened and the old bridge torn down. This bypass was a successful project and has turned the Stone Store Basin into a quiet and tranquil spot that is more in keeping with its historical past. Photos below show flooding in 1981 and 2007.

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