The events of today quickly become history before we realise. So it is with the Paeroa flood of 1981. Still fresh in the minds of many residents yet with the passing of a decade becomes part of our history. It was on Monday April 13 1981 at around 7pm that the Ohinemuri River topped the stopbank and then scoured away the bank to cause the worst disaster to have ever struck Paeroa. The Flood of 1981.
Following heavy rainfall in the watershed of the Ohinemuri River during Sunday and Monday the water pouring down the river first wiped out the Waikino shops and peaked in Paeroa at 6.30pm. At first the 70 year old stop banks held but once the water was over the top a hole was soon scoured away. Silt laden water poured through and flooded a vast area west of the railway line as well as other low laying parts of the town. The flooding of the town septic tanks added to the contamination of the flood water.
Daylight saw all the lower parts of the Paeroa residential area under water with over 1000 people being evacuated. All the farmland from Paeroa to Thames, between the Waihou River and the foothills was under water. The Paeroa water supply was out of action with extensive damage to the main supply pipe in the Waitawheta Valley and at Karangahake. Roads around the district were damaged with State Highway 2 through the Karangahake Gorge closed for a week.
Civil defence, local authorities, fire service and government staff all came together to combat the flooding and then get the town back in to order. There was heavy loss in homes with whole households of furniture being taken to the dump after being contaminated by the flood water. It was almost six months before all the families could return to their homes.