Welcome to Wairoa, Northern Hawkes Bay. New Zealand.
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Cyclone Bola

Chapter 1   Inundation & Devastation  -  Introduction and background information regarding Cyclone Bola throughout New Zealand.

Chapter 2   Disintegration & Destruction  -  The collapse of the Wairoa Bridge and all Service Utilities.

Chapter 3   Survival & Tragedy  -  The conditions and heartbreak in the first week after Cyclone Bola.

Chapter 4   Isolation & Transitional  -  Initial response to Wairoa's total isolation from the outside world.

Chapter 5   Provisional & Interim  -  Alternative transport routes provided to access both Wairoa north and south.

Chapter 6   Restoration & Construction  -  The planning and contruction of the new High Level Wairoa Bridge.

Chapter 7   Unification & Celebration  -  The Opening of the new Wairoa Bridge and the unity of the Wairoa township.

Chapter 8   Memories & Recollections  -  Personal stories and recollections contributed by our Readers.

Chapter 7 - Unification and Celebration

The new and third Wairoa Bridge was opened to the public on the 2nd of December 1989. On the first day the town held a large Gala and Fun Day around and on the bridge. Children danced and the public took the opportunity to walk the length and breath of the bridge without traffic. Once open for business later in the day, the traffic on the roads increased as the Wairoa Community all wanted to drive backwards and forwards over the enormous bridge which towered over their small town.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who was visiting New Zealand at the time, opened our 5.5 million dollar bridge two months later, on the 7th of February 1990.

Wairoa Bridge

The New Wairoa Bridge in all its grandiose, much wider, higher and far more modern looking, now gives the approach to our town a far more up market look.

Wairoa Bridge

The New Bridge has much more clearance underneath and more space between its support pillars, it was also moved relative to the old bridge to give it a stronger foundation which is much less likely to be damaged by the flow of the river even in severe flood conditions.

Wairoa Bridge

There are 5 pier columns and pile caps with each of these having 4 piles. Each pile was pounded down through 30 metres of silts and gravel and 3 metres into the sandstone bedrock. The pouring of the concrete into the casings was all done underwater and monitored by video camera. The pile caps were set in place followed by the columns. The Pier columns are 1.8 metres in diameter with a flare at the top. The height of the columns varied from 6.2 metres to 7.2 metres from the pile cap. There is 30 beams holding the deck, each one 32 metres in length.

Wairoa Bridge

The reinforced concrete bridge deck comprises of two 2.5 metre traffic lanes, two 1.5 metre cycle lanes and 1.5 metre footpaths. The deck is jointless and 200 metres long. Handrails are made from aluminum to prevent rusting in the salty air. Concrete fascia panels mask the water and sewage pipes which run along each side of the bridge, hence giving a tidier visual line.

Wairoa Bridge

The measurements on this pile is hard for us to comprehend years later. The water level during Bola is marked at the top as you can see. It sure is some distance from the normal level.

Wairoa Bridge

The one and only roundabout in Wairoa built at the same time as the new bridge to link all three roads. These roads all veer upwards to enter the roundabout and upwards onto the bridge.

Wairoa Bridge

Wairoa Bridge

Today the remains of the second Wairoa bridge on the north side are a reminder of a time in Wairoa's history. A time that we still refer to and compare experiences. You can see the remains of the sewage pipe, the tattered concrete abutment, the broken beams, the scattered rubble and worn down bank. Dark, forgotten and in the shadows of the High Level Wairoa Bridge.

The Ministry of Works did an amazing cleanup on the south side, removing all of the remains of the old bridge. The ground was leveled, grass sown and as it grew the bank was mowed. The south side is attractive and tidy. The north side, however, is most unsightly looking across from the south side under the flash new bridge. One has to wonder why this was not also removed and leveled off making a more picturesque view for visitors who stop for morning tea or lunch along the banks of the Wairoa River.

Wairoa Bridge

Above are the remains of the pile caps on the north side. The first two that carried the weight of the Wairoa Bridge built in 1933.

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Ozymandias - Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Wairoa Bridge

Wairoa - Gateway to Lake Waikaremoana, Mahia Peninsula, Gisborne to the North and Napier to the South. March 1988 - a settlement in crisis, a land flooded, a bridge collapsed, a town split, a community divided, families separated, friends isolated ...
but we survived through it, we experienced hardship, we became stronger, we made new friends, we gained new memories, we were part of history, we bonded as a community and we created a more modern town for our children and grand children to come.

There was order, Wairoa did repair the damage and they have moved progressively on into the future.

'You know they are from Wairoa' when you hear, I remember when the bridge was washed away ...

External Links

Wairoa on YouTube - Tropical Cyclone Bola 1988.

NZ Weather Forun Hictoric: NZ Weather Summary March 1988

Wairoa March 8th 1988 Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, provided by the TVNZ Television Archives

Wairoa Bridge Te Papa - Museum of New Zealand, provided by the TVNZ Television Archives

Wairoa Flooding Te Papa - Museum of New Zealand, provided by the TVNZ Television Archives

Gisborne Flooding Te Papa - Museum of New Zealand, provided by the TVNZ Television Archives

Diagnostic Precipition Study - Tropical Cyclone Bola written by Mark R. Sinclair

Tell Us Your Story

In our travels putting this page together we have found many people with their own personal amazing stories. Stories that need to be told, written down and kept for the generations following us to be able to resource and read. Cyclone Bola made the New Zealand History books and hence will be researched for many years to come. We would like your stories, please use the contact form below, send in your stories and we will edit and publish them. Pages of first hand stories will make great reading of a time and place that affected so many for so long. If you prefer to tell your story and not type then email us and we will make contact. Make sure your use a correct email address so we may contact you for more information if needed.

We are also after any photos that we may use with your stories. Any photo scanned would be placed at Wairoa.net and would be Watermarked. The original photos as with the ones already published above would not be for distribution and the copyright would stay with the owner.

We also request any corrections that may need changing on these pages. The information has been sourced from memories the Wairoa people have plus the small amount we could find on the Internet that was relevant.

We will add to these pages as time goes with any relevant information we continue to source.

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1.    Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

2.    Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

3.    The Wairoa Star.

4.    The New Zealand Herald.

5.    Television New Zealand Archives.


1.    Dennis Caves.

2.    Janet Chapman.

3.    Rowan Simpson.

4.    Bob W Lewis.

5.    Marten Metz.

6.    Rupert Wood.

7.    Charlie Northcott.

8.    Elizabeth McNabb.

9.    Fay J Caughey.

9.    Ruth Whateley.

9.    Mary Heath.

10.  Jennifer L Caughey.

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