Rain, floods and a major bridge washout on the West Coast

Heavy run is normal on the West Coast, but they are currently getting more than usual, with floods road closures from Makarora (just north of Lake Wanaka leading over the Haast pass) to Hokitika.

And there has been a major bridge collapse on the Waiho river just south of Franz Josef township – this is the only road  between there and Fox Glacier.

Civil Defence West Coast


1 News:  Astonishing footage captures bridge collapse in Franz Josef as wild weather batters West Coast

The river doesn’t look particularly high, but has been flowing very strongly with boulders and ice chunks likely to have damaged the supports.

Might need to go a bit faster than 30 to get across that gap.

It could take quite a bit to get that river crossing and therefore the only highway re-opened.

Image may contain: sky

There is currently one road closure, SH6 Franz Josef to Fox Glacier with two slips at Omoeroa and significant surface flooding south of Whataroa at Lake Wahapo. Please watch the NZTA Website for any developments at:

Latest Update:  26 March 2019 8:42 pm

There is a raised risk to life and injury for local residents and further risk to property, and accordingly the Mayor Bruce Smith has declared a State of Emergency for the Westland District.

The Waiho Bridge has been completely destroyed. NZTA will be assessing how to reinstate the Highway following this disastrous event. The ECC will be assessing the need for a controlled evacuation on the South Side of the Waiho River.

Can NZ really be ‘a bridge’ between US and China?

I still don’t know. Jacinda Ardern was asked by RNZ how New Zealand can act as a bridge between China and the US. She doesn’t seem to have really answered.

On The Nation in the weekend: Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker

Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker says New Zealand is trying to position itself as the bridge between the United States and China. “We have a bit of a reputation for the honest broker, and it’s times like this that we should draw upon that reputation”.

Pont A Pierres 1918

This post is a personal reference but may be of a bit of interest to others.

Pont-A-Pierres is a small cluster of buildings between the villages of Escarmain, Salesches and Beauignies in northern France, about 7 km from Le Quesnoy, the walled town that has  become a part of New Zealand history.

Pont-A-Pierres is beside the Saint-Georges stream (ruisseau de Saint-Georges). That both are French versions of my name is a curiosity probably only to me.

The First World War was a major part of modern history, with a huge toll on human life and property. One relatively tiny event happened at Pont-A-Pierres in the closing stages of the war, involving the NZ Engineers, the Maori Pioneers and one of my grandfathers.

From: The Maoris in the Great War – CHAPTER XVII. — FINAL STAGES OF THE WAR, 1918

On October 23rd, the 42nd Division pushed on again, carried their objectives on time, and allowed the New Zealand Division to pass through and carry on the advance. The attack was completely successful, the Division advancing about 1,000 yards past their final objective.

That day the Pioneers moved on again, to billets in Solesmes. This was the first village in which civilians were living that the Battalion had yet occupied. The inhabitants gave the Maoris a vociferously hearty welcome. Next day the Pioneers moved on to bivouacs near Vertigneul. Most of the roads here were in pretty good condition.

There were very few demolitions except the Pont A’Pierres Bridge. The approaches to this bridge were repaired by B Company under heavy fire from the enemy. There were several British batteries of artillery waiting to get over, and becoming impatient they all opened fire on the foe—9.2-inch and 6-inch guns, and 18-pounders, and of course the Germans got on to them and, as the O.C. Pioneers recorded: “nearly strafed the place off the map.”

However, the work was completed in good time and on went the gunners. B Company also widened and metalled the Romeries-Beaudignies road from Le Trousse Mimon onward. The other companies repaired the roads between Solesmes and Romeries.

File:Bridge built by New Zealand engineers (21475640396).jpg

Bridge built by B company of the Maori Pioneer Battalion over the St George River at Pont-a-Pierre, France. Photograph taken late October or early November 1918 by Henry Armytage Sanders.
Scource of descriptive information – Identification of Pont-a-Pierre and the bridge over the St George River by Franck Bruyere, a citizen of Le Quesnoy. He also cited the information from James Cowan’s history of Maori in the First World War. June 2008.
(National Library)


The 3rd Company, who had been Company in reserve, were to have their special opportunity without delay. On the 22nd this Company moved to an assembly area south-east of Solesmes, where they joined the 2nd Brigade, who were to carry the St. Georges River crossings on the 23rd. The now usual success attended the day’s advance; so much so that the leading troops were able to cross the St. Georges River without much difficulty, and by most commendable enterprise pushed on into the village of Beaudignies and secured two bridges across the Ecaillon still intact.

Meanwhile the 3rd Field Company was busily erecting a bridge at Pont a Pierres to enable the Artillery to continue the advance. The enemy was already shelling heavily all possible bridge sites, and it was with great difficulty that the 3rd Company was able to complete its job by daylight.

Next day three Weldon trestle bridges were thrown across the river in this same locality. The 1st Field Company had been instructed to repeat its performance of the 20th by erecting another tank bridge at Pont a Pierres. Investigation of the situation disclosed an immense crater 80 feet wide and 20 feet deep which had been blown in the road by the departing Boches, and had involved the former bridge abutments in the general ruin. To repair this damage was impossible at the moment, but the erection of a fine double-way heavy bridge of two 20-feet spans supported by a massive trestle pier, quickly reopened the road to Beaudignies for the passage of guns and wagons. The new bridge was approached by a short deviation on either side of the stream. Heavy planks on one side and broken brick on the other furnished a temporary roadbed that successfully carried the weightiest traffic.

The road and bridge built by New Zealand Engineers in France, World War I

The road and bridge built by New Zealand Engineers to replace the one blown up by German troops in their retreat during World War I. Photograph taken at Pont-a-Pierre, France 28 October 1918 by Henry Armytage Sanders.
(National Library)

Constant violent shelling of the area immediately surrounding these bridges caused repeated damage to the structure, to say nothing of the personnel employed. Colonel Stewart may be fairly quoted once more:—

“No unit, however, can boast of a higher standard of duty or hardier fortitude than the Engineers, who, making light of difficulties, dangers and disappointments, persevered with, completed and maintained their work.”

Conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty were shown by 2nd-Lieutenant D. R. Mansfield, and Lance-Corporal E. R. W. Pledger, of the 1st Field Company, the latter’s efforts being rewarded with the Military Medal. Sappers G. M. Bennett and A. Newport of the 1st Field Company also came under official notice for their qualities of skill and courage shown under heavy fire during the bridging operations at Pont a Pierres. Both had also been prominent in the erection of bridges at Briastre a few days earlier.

The 3rd Company were no less assiduous in their efforts, nor less steadfast in maintaining a high standard of efficiency and cool bearing. 2nd-Lieutenant E. W. George was particularly prominent in the operations at Pont a Pierres and won the Military Cross, while a Military Medal was awarded to 2nd-Corporal George Campbell, whose performances on the 4th set the seal on a long period of courageous service.

Pont a Pierre

George Edmund Butler, Pont a Pierre, 1918
(National Collection of War Art)

Modern Pont-A-Pierres (with a newer bridge over the Saint-Georges stream):

E.W. George Gallant Conduct sheet:

London Gazette 02/04/1919:

2nd Lieutenant, 3rd Field Company, New Zealand Engineers On the night 23rd/24th October 1918. He was detailed to construct a bridge over the St. George’s River at Pont-a-Pierres. The crossing was subjected to very heavy shell fire, and his party was driven off the bridge three times, but by his coolness and courage he lept his men together and completed the bridge in time.

One of many involved in the final success in World War 1. In all, of those who who served with the Divisional Engineers Filed Companies and Field Troop:

Some overall statistics of New Zealand involvement in World War 1:

  • 98,850 served in New Zealand units overseas
  • 80% were volunteers
  • 20% were conscripted
  • 9% of the population served (about 1 in 5 of the male population)
  • 2,227 served in Maori units
  • 461 came from the Pacific Islands
  • 286 were imprisoned for rejecting military service
  • 18,058 total deaths
  • 2,779 died during the Gallipoli campaign
  • 2,111 died during the Somme offensive
  • 837 died during the Messines offensive
  • 1,796 died during the Passchendaele offensive
  • 5 were executed
  • 501 prisoners of war
  • 41,317 occurrences of injury or illness

That’s about a 60% casualty rate (died, injured or illness).

Many of us will also have had non-New Zealand relatives serving as well. My other grandfather then from Wales was badly injured (chest wounds).

As far as I know two great uncles from London were killed – my grandfather did further engineering studies after the war in England, met one of their sisters, married her and brought her back with him to New Zealand.


London Bridge terrorist attack

BBC summarises yesterday’s terror attack in London:

  • Seven people have been killed in a terror attack near London Bridge. Police shot dead the three attackers
  • Ambulance service says 48 patients were taken to five hospitals; 21 are in a critical condition
  • Four police officers were injured, two seriously
  • Eight armed officers fired a total of 50 bullets at the three attackers
  • One member of the public suffered gunshot wounds and is receiving treatment in hospital
  • 12 people have been arrested during police raids in Barking, east London
  • It’s understood one of the attackers lived at the address in Barking; neighbours say he was married with two children
  • PM Theresa May condemns the “single evil ideology of Islamist extremism,” saying “enough is enough”
  • The general election will go ahead on 8 June
  • All major political parties suspend national campaigning, except UKIP

Updates from Missy:

* 12 people have been arrested in Barking, East London (Essex), this morning. Some of the residents at the apartment block where the raid took place claim that one of the terrorists lived in the block. Four women are believed to be amongst those arrested.


* A second address in Barking has also been raided.

* The first on duty police officer on the scene was from the British Transport Police, their job is primarily to deal with crime on public transport – railway mainly, they are not armed. The officer only had his baton, he confronted all three terrorists alone with his baton, he has been in the job for less than 2 years. He is seriously injured, but stable. He also managed to provide a statement last night despite his injuries, (the police referred to it as giving his account of events). *I say on duty as it is unclear if he was the first, or if an off duty was first, but he was the first on duty officer.

* An off duty police officer who was one of the first on scene was stabbed as he rugby tackled one of the terrorists. He is in critical condition after sustaining knife wounds.

I know many will say that these two men were doing their job, but lets think about this for a moment.

One, on duty – so yes it can be argued he was doing his job, but he ran in & took on three men with hunting knives (possibly machetes) who were also wearing what he would have believed was a suicide bomb vest, and he had a baton. Many of us would not do that.

The second, was off duty & essentially a member of the public, no weapons of any sort – not even a baton, ran towards a man with a hunting knife, and probably suicide bomb vest, and rugby tackled him.

It is hard to know exact numbers, but between these two – and the other police, a lot of lives would have been saved.

I remember being told once that bravery is ‘being scared, but still doing what you need to because you know and believe it is the right thing to do.’ On that definition the first responders last night are all incredibly brave people. I know I wouldn’t be able to do it.

* The police have confirmed this afternoon that a member of the public was shot and injured in the crossfire – this confirms the previous reports in the DM and the Sun. The Police apparently fired unprecedented number of rounds to stop the terrorists.

* Also, apparently it has been suggested that Trump might make a visit to London this week to show solidarity with the UK. Reportedly Fox News are saying it is the right thing to do and he can walk defiantly across London Bridge. Not sure that will work, the last time someone walked defiantly across a bridge was Phillip Schofield after the Westminster attack & he was mercilessly ridiculed for it. Also, with the election having Trump in country would be a massive distraction, and not what the country either needs – or would want.

Other detail from BBC:

12 arrested in Barking after van and knife attack

Twelve people have been arrested after the London terror attack which left seven people dead and 48 injured.

The arrests in Barking, east London, followed a raid at a flat belonging to one of the three attackers.

A van hit pedestrians on London Bridge at 21:58 BST on Saturday. Three men then got out and stabbed people in nearby Borough Market.

The attackers were shot dead by eight officers who fired 50 bullets. A member of the public was accidentally shot.

The member of the public remains in hospital in a non-critical condition, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said.

Thirty-six people are in hospital with a “range of injuries”, he said, and 21 are in a critical condition.

General election will go ahead on 8 June, says May

The prime minister has confirmed the general election will take place as planned on 8 June, despite another terrorist attack in London.

Speaking outside Downing Street, she said: “Violence can never be allowed to disrupt the democratic process.”

Political campaigning would resume in full on Monday, she said, after most parties suspended national campaigns.

Muslim terrorists create a lot of tensions and problems for other Muslims in Britain.

Muslim Council’s new campaign to report terror

Harun Rashid, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), has expanded on his earlier condemnation of the attack.

He backed Prime Minister Theresa May’s call for change, echoing her remark that “enough is enough”.

“We are ready to have those difficult conversations, as equal citizens with an equal stake in this fight,” he said.

“I am pleased that the Prime Minister is speaking about conversation, it implies that we must listen to one another and work together to be part of a truly United Kingdom.”

He said the MCB would now launch a new campaign with mosques to report suspicious activity.

“We want to turn people’s minds away from this death cult,” he said.

Another call for bridge flag comparison

Today’s Herald editorial adds a call for the fern flag to fly alongside the current flag on Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Let’s see fern flag on harbour bridge

This is a serious and urgent request of whomever is running the Government in the Prime Minister’s absence. Please fly the proposed new flag from the Auckland Harbour Bridge, either on one pole alongside the existing flag, or on both poles.

We will be voting on them in just two months and it is vital to see the proposed alternative in action before we can decide.

Until we see how it looks fluttering in a breeze, lying limp and performing in various conditions, we cannot know whether its design really “works”.

We also need to give it a test of time. A design that is striking at first sight, and even at subsequent sightings for a week or two, can lose its appeal later. A new national flag would need to hold our affection for a lifetime. We need to test it for as long as possible before we face the decision. That’s why this request is urgent.

They say that the Government has sent “samples of the alternative flags to individuals and organisations that had two flagpoles and undertook to fly both of them as directed” – has anyone seen both flags flying together?

People cannot be expected to go looking for them. On the harbour bridge, the Government’s transport agency has the most visible poles in the country. Why are they not being used for this important exercise?

Surely a decision need not await John Key’s return. Better that he not be involved. Put the flag up there, please.

There’s a petition running asking the Minister of Transport, Simon Bridges, to Fly the Silver Fern Flag on the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

We the, people of New Zealand who support the Silver Fern Flag, ask that the “alternative” flag flown from the Auckland Harbour bridge. Starting immediately and flown until the end of the second flag referendum.

I support that but I think they have made a mistake (as well as the misplaced comma) referring to “people of New Zealand who support the Silver Fern Flag” – anyone who supports a good democratic contest in the referendum should consider supporting having both flag options flying together wherever possible.