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Keeping the Pareora Bridge

The old wooden bridge constructed in 1874/75 was subjected to flood. The bridge was washed away on 8 June 1879 when the river was "a sea from terrace to terrace" and from that time till 1887 there was no means of crossing the bridge and traffic had to ford the river often with the assistance of a local man to get pulled out. A meeting called by the Waimate Council was held at the Makikihi Schoolroom in 1886 to try and get the bridge restored, and a very lively meeting it was. The Pareora was the boundary river between the Geraldine and Waimate counties.

Pareora is seven miles south of Timaru. Pareora freezing works on the coast.
Road bridge and rail bridge cross the lower Pareora River.

North Otago Times, 12 December 1889, Page 2
Mr W. Balfour has been re-elected chairman of the Geraldine County Council. The Council received notice today of legal proceedings to compel them to restore the Pareora bridge on the main south road.

Otago Witness, 30 November 1888, Page 14
Editor Witness, — Sir : The question of bridging the Pareora river on the Timaru Main road is at present agitating the minds of the people of South Canterbury; and as your paper has a wide circulation in the Oamaru and Timaru districts, I venture to hope you will find a place in your first issue for the enclosed lines directly bearing on the subject, and being a resume of the facts of the position at date. — Yours, &c, Subscriber. St. Andrews, November 23. 

(From Lays Away From Home.)

The Pareora River,
A torrent fast and wide,
With many tortuous channels,
Unto the sea does glide ;
Winds by the homes of squatters,
And haunts of cock a-toos,
Then enters the blue ocean
Not far from Saint Andrews.


To bridge this awkward river,
As yet they've tried in vain ;
All efforts have proved futile,
For when down pours the rain
New channels are discovered,
And this is true I wean—
The structure is an "island,"
And lingers in mid stream.


The Main road to the city,
Or town, of Timaru
Is severed when this bridge is down,
And what can people do
Who must use the noble highway
To journey fair and free ?
For 'tis a shock when one's fat stock
Go floating out to sea.


Away down in Otago,
Where Scotchmen keep the law,
South Canterbury is noted
For people who can jaw ;
Her pasture lands are famous,
Likewise her crops of grain —
'Tis sad to know her bridges
Are planned and built in vain.


But truce to introduction
Suffice it then to say
Opinions are divided
Concerning this high-way.
Runs high the wordy warfare,
Mass meetings they convene,
And summoned are the council
Of far off Geraldine.

For vested in this body
Is the power to mar or make
The fortunes of this crossing place—
They all the onus take.
And when Waimate said, "From us
"Pray half the maintenance seize!"
Replied by 'lectric telegraph,
"Right! Geraldine agrees!"


The mighty chief of Barkfield—
Whose eloquence has poured
As chairman at all meetings
Of Waimate's Council Board,
Together with his henchman,
Who dwells where rocks are blue-
Oppose repairing the old bridge,
Or putting up a new!

The Pareora Riding
Does likewise boast a man
Who, like the chief of Bankfield,
Holds the honour of his clan
As dear as when in days of yore
They fought for hearth and home.
He advocates "a bridge, of course,"
To span the river's foam.


The ratepayers are present ;
The schoolhouse lamps do flare!
The spare-built major-member
Is asked to take the chair.
He reads from copious folios
Some uninviting "facts,"
Compiled by our great Government,
Christened "Works" and "Counties Acts."


Those with opinions legal,
Obtained from Timaru,
Set forth as clear as noonday
That the proper thing to do
Is to bridge the river fairly—
No matter what it cost-
As the Council are responsible!
All opposition's lost.


But, no ! Despite the verdict
Of lawyers and of acts,
The valiant chief of Bankfield
Ignores the written facts,
And cautions the ratepayers,
In a missive read that night,
To refrain from hasty action
Till their captain heaves in sight.


Then Stowell, famed for heavy crops,
Moved resolution "one " —
"This bridge ain't as it ought to be,
As I'm a livin' man
The railway bridge, too, is broke,
And I really fail to see
Why the Council don't take action!"
This was seconded by Bee.


And Balfour, from the Levels lands
(Not as Chairman Geraldine)
Said his personal experience
Had very varied been.
In travelling stock from Oamaru
He'd too sweetly have to pay
To truck sheep from St. Andrews
To " Washdyke," miles away.


He lacked, too, of the danger
To travellers by night,
Who vainly tried to find the "ford"
With land ahead in sight.
And asked the people present
"If such things should be so?"
"Or if the country had gone back
To twenty years ago?

And Drinnan, who had lost his watch
In these waters dark and wild,
Moved, seconded by Williams,
That the roads be reconciled
By joining them together
With a good and useful span,
A credit to the district,
And a boon to horse and man.


Then the tartan was discovered,
For the Pareora man
Grasped the situation firmly,
And to force the talk began !
Looked in vain for he of Bankfield,
Sorrowed much he was not there —
Sought to reconstruct the bridgeway,
Or, at any rate, repair.


Anon rose "vice versa,"
Like a vassal leal and true,
And talked a bit at random
To prove how much he knew!
Quoting figures broad and startling,
Without rhyme or reason why!
He was seconded proforma—
All his statements to decry.



Now "bark " and "howl," bold Geraldine!
Like many a bitten child.
You must abide the consequence-
No use in getting riled.
For the honour of your country
Set to work, and never fear-
Give a bridge to Pareora,
And employ your engineer !



A few more spouters spouted,
Then the meeting did dissolve!
But the problem — "Bridge, or no bridge?" —
Is a problem yet to solve !
So, when to Timaru you journey,
From the road meantime refrain :
To consult your body's safety —
By Jingo, go by train!

See verse XII
Hawera & Normanby Star
, 25 February 1886, Page 2
Two crops of oats were threshed out close to St. Andrews on Wednesday (says the Timaru Herald), which, for heaviness of yield, are an excellent criterion of what the grain-growing lands in that part of South Canterbury are capable of bearing. A seven teen acre paddock on the farm of Mr. D. Stowell on being threshed gave the remarkably heavy return of 1.978 bushels, or something over 116 bushels to the acre. This is the largest yield we have heard of this season. The first crop put down on this paddock was wheat, which gave fifty bushels to the acre ; and the second crop was also wheat, which gave five bushels less. This crop of oats is the third one grown, and speaks well for the quality of the land. Next to Mr. Stowell's farm Mr. S. Caqeu has a thirty nine and a half-acre paddock of wheat, which is giving the splendid average of eighty-six bushels to the acre.

Otago Witness, 17 August 1888, Page 14  Timaru, August 12.
Rain has been falling continuously here since Thursday afternoon, and all the rivers are now in a flooded state. The approaches to nearly all the road bridges have been swept away. The South express was two and a-half hours late reaching here on Saturday owing to a serious break at Pareora bridge, two miles north of St. Andrews. At this bridge the passengers and mails had to be sent across by trolly. The workmen are busy to-day repairing the damage, but as the river is still rising the work is one of great difficulty. Sheep have, suffered terribly in a the Mackenzie Country, and the loss among lambs on the low-lying lands will also be great.

Nov. 2007, JW. Mr D. Stowell farm is called "Brompton," and a gr. grandson, David, is still farming it, and still cropping too!! The Drinnan's have only recently left, they farmed just over the Otaio at the middle bridge. "Bankfield" farm  is  just over the Otaio, inland a couple of miles or so from the main road.

Timaru Herald Nov. 1898. BRUCE - The friends of Mr Arthur S. Bruce, are respectfully that the funeral of his late daughter, Ida Marjorie, will leave Bankfield for the Upper Otaio Church at 1 o'clock on Wednesday.

Timaru Herald, 30 June 1896, Page 4 THE PAREORA RIVER.
THE NEED FOR A BRIDGE. Another adventure m the river was reported to us yesterday. On Sunday afternoon a well-known fish dealer, named Maurice Cavanagh, essayed to cross the Pareora with a spring-cart load of fish drawn by two horses. Mrs Cavanagh accompanied her husband, but fortunately the walked over the bridge, and therefore not only escaped danger herself, but was able to fetch assistance for her husband when he got into difficulties. The latter, at the middle stream, drove in at the old ford, where there is now a sudden drop of 2ft and then a rapid descent into a deep hole. His horses reached the further bank, but this was too steep for them to pull the cart up. Cavanagh jumped out on the bank and took their heads to encourage them, but they could not manage the task, they swerved round, the cart capsized, and the turn put was carried some way down stream and stranded, while the contents of the cart, £5 worth of fish, and overcoats and baskets, went away towards the sea. Mrs Cavanagh saw the accident and ran to Mr S. Hanson, who lives near, for help, and he with a young man named O'Connor promptly went to Cavanagh's assistance. The latter had managed to liberate the outrigger horse, but he could not have saved the mare in the shafts from drowning, as the cart was upside down in 4ft of water. With Mr Hanson's help however, and cutting the harness, she was got out, and the cart also, after about three-quarters of an hour's work in water up to their waists. Cavanagh lost his fish, baskets, and overclothing, very nearly lost a horse, and had his harness seriously damaged, and he and Messrs Hanson and O'Connor had a very disagreeable and long job m deep water. The moral of the story is that if the County Councils concerned cannot erect a bridge, or until they can, they ought to employ a capable person to keep travellers out of such dangers, not leave them to get into trouble and call on a plucky and generous resident of the locality to help them out.

Otago Witness, 3 June 1908, Page 40
Bridge. — The Waimate County Council has built bridge over the south, branch of the Pareora River, just below Mr B. Evans's farm, in the Lower Pareora Gorge. It will be great boon to the settlers in the Upper Pareora Valley when they are taking sheep or lambs to the freezing works.

Excerpt from 'Pareora East History Trail' compiled by Darryl Smith and dedicated to Mr Lawrence Haywoood who gave information and encouragement.

Stock banks protected by willows were erected following the disastrous flood of 1887 when the flow had changed to the southern bank close to where the big gum stump stands. By 1896 the stop bank completed by Messrs Mason and Marchant were redirecting the flow of the water under the bridge again.

After a good deal of arguing among local bodies on how the new bridge would be funded, a new bridge of reinforced concrete was built by Bridge Contractors Graven for the Public Works Department. The bridge was 660 feet long, contained 23 piers each with four reinforced piles driven down in by a steam hammer and a two inch hot mix laid over the decking. Twenty men were employed in the building, and were very popular with local Pareora girls at the Saturday night dances. Several families of bridge workers were on the school roll at that time. The Pareora Bridge had a direct influence on the growth and development of the town.

The total cost of the bridge was
£11,400 with two thirds funded by the main Highways Board, and the balance from the local counties and boroughs. The ferro-concrete bridge was officially opened on the 4th December 1929 by the Hon. Bilchener, Cabinet member for Waimate.

The position was this : that in South Canterbury the country lying between the Pareora and Rangitata Rivers formed the Geraldine County. Within that county they had also four road districts —the Levels, the Temuka, the Geraldine, and the Mount Peel Road District. The number of ratepayers in the Levels Road District was 1,372, the number in the Temuka Road District 453, in the Geraldine District 400, and in the Mount Peel Road District only 80 ratepayers.

Nov. 2007. JW. The 'new' bridge over the Pareora had it's sides chiselled off about ten years or more ago and was widened a little, so it is not much of a spectacle now. It had become too narrow for the modern lorries, there were often incidents of driving mirrors clashing. The Otaio bridge had the same indignity inflicted upon it earlier this year too. They were built in the style of the Rangitata and Rakaia bridges but they were built slightly wider from the start!

The river still has it's moments flood wise, though it would be the 1962 flood that was the last time the bridge was closed. There is extensive stop banks upstream and the southern approach is on top of one as well. The old blue gum stump referred to is still there, though not on the road now since the shift in approach to the bridge. 1986 the river flood was monumental.  It broke it's banks at the Huts east of the gorge, and was back in it's channel by-in-large by the time it got to the main road; the stop banks held here, but were over-topped at the huts.

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