NEW ZEALAND DISASTERS AND TRAGEDIES
TE RAPA (WAIHI)LANDSLIDE, LAKE TAUPO
THURSDAY 7 MAY 1846
New Zealand’s most devastating landslide occurred on the 7 May 1846 after heavy rainfall in the Taupo area.
The small Maori village of Te Rapa on the south-western shore of Lake Taupo lived in the shadow of the volcanic mountain Kakaramea (1300m).
In 1846 a slip dammed the Waimatai Stream above the village and around three days later the stream “burst its barriers, and, with irresistible force, swept rocks, trees and earth with it into the lake.” (Rev Richard Taylor) engulfing the village.
Around 63 people were killed including the paramount chief Te Heuheu Tukino II. The site was declared ‘tapu’ and in time another village grew on the site – Waihi (also known as Little Waihi).
Today Waihi is a private village – access is by invitation only. It is a scenic site with the small Catholic Church set against the backdrop of bush-clad hills. It can be seen from State Highway 41 between Turangi and Taumaranui.
On the 20 Mar 1910 another enormous landslide came down – this time all but one escaped.
In all more than 200 people have been killed at Te Rapa/Waihi in 3 separate landslides – the first around 1780, then in 1846 then the third in 1910. Today the area, referred to as the “Hipaua Steaming Cliffs” is still unstable and concerns are often aired about the safety of the road above Waihi especially after heavy rain.
For further information see:
HIPAUA STEAMING CLIFFS.
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