The 1953 Ashley Flood at Waikuku

In January 1953, the Ashley broke out north of Rangiora and headed across country.  Old-timers (defined as people who have lived here a long time and are at least 10 years older than me) often use that as the bench-mark of the Ashley’s capabilities.  I recently came across these photos of my mother’s – at the time she  was a young widow with two small boys in tow.

I was a five-year-old at the time, on holiday in Waikuku (in Pine Avenue on the south side from the Lagoon) from Christchurch. The water headed towards Waikuku and broke the bridge that used to cross the lagoon.  The water filled up the low ground to the south for a considerable distance and was eventually released by bulldozing out the sandhills where the surf club now sits.

Those of us on the south side were trapped, although not in any danger. As a little boy, I found it quite exciting!  I can well remember the churning water heading out to sea once it was released.  I can also remember air-drops of food being made to the store on the other bank – very few helicopters in those days!

Once the water had subsided the men set to work building a footbridge across the remains of the road bridge.  This gave us access to the store.

Eventually those on the south side got their cars out by driving in convoy along the beach to Kairaki.  We were third in line but my mother’s little Austin 7 couldn’t keep up with the first two, so the rest of the convoy had to go out our pace! The photo below shows our arrival at Kairaki.


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