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Pioneering Reminiscences of Old Wairoa

The Turiroa Cutting

page 27

The Turiroa Cutting.

In early days there were two "roads," so-called, to Napier between Wairoa and Waihua, thirteen miles south, leading out of the town; one was by way of the beach, not always reliable owing to the risk of the rider being swept out of the saddle by an extra heavy wave, and of being smothered in quicksands at the point of emergence at the Waihua end on to what was then called the Marengo plains—the Marengo plains were the scene of a great Austrian battle, but no one has ever come forward to explain why this particular spot was so named. The other "road" ran from "Lockwood's Point" at the west end of the present borough, past Orere, along the river bank, which was bordered with all kinds of fruit trees; then it climbed a couple of steep hills and dropped down to the Turiroa flats. When the county system came into being in place of provincialism, the local Council decided to construct a highway along the river front to Turiroa. The Survey Department ruthlessly cut through the centre of Wairoa's only recreation ground, and the contract was taken at £500 by a carpenter named Taylor, and it was very fortunate for him that he had no maintenance to carry out owing to laxity in the preparation of the specifications. The job was passed, and the Council met a few days later and accepted a tender for maintenance for which there was great rivalry, but the contract fell to a little Cornishman, Dick Rickard, a great admirer of Billy Bray, the evangelist. The same night the windows of Heaven were opened and a mild edition page 28of the Deluge occurred. When the rain ceased after the recognized period of three days, our Cornish friend rode up on an old horse he called Manaia, after Wairoa's only paddle-boat, and to his dismay he found the cutting down from end to end. Old Manaia, too, met his Waterloo, for he slipped in the mullock and rolled over into the turbulent river to meet a watery grave, leaving his master to extricate himself the best way he could. He was not long in presenting himself at the County Office to forfeit his maintenance deposit. It knew how to rain in those days, for they were typical tropical downpours, such as might be expected in a bush-clad country as Wairoa was, though the river was never so silt-laden then as now. The cutting has slipped several times since but never like the first slip, and now it is still admitted to be the prettiest drive on the road from Napier to Wairoa. What is known as "The Poplar Avenue," near Wharekiri, is worthy of repetition along some of the other roads leading to the town, and probably such would be done but for the presence of those useful adjuncts of modern civilization, the electric and the telephone lines. It is worthy of note here that on one occasion a "Digger," one of the "dinkums," who saw service in the Great War, was driving to Wairoa and picked up a footsore traveller. On reaching the poplar avenue the traveller remarked, "How like this is to the road up to Albert." So France and Wairoa met again, and, needless to say, many reminiscences of the great conflict resulted.