The 1981 Ohinemuri Flood Waikino Memorial Artwall
News came at 5 pm that Waikino had been washed away by a surge of water a metre high. Three men rowed a boat to the Waikino Hotel to help those stranded by the flood. When they got to the pub there were no takers for a boat ride out … the patrons preferred to stay put ….. The rowboat is featured in the second mosaic from the right.
Waikino’s new Bridge and the Waikino Memorial Art Wall Karangahake Gorge, Bay of Plenty opened in 2016. The wall was the second stage of a project that is a memorial to the 1981 Ohinemuri flood The main highway shops came to a devastating end. A huge torrent of water literally picked up the Waikino business district and many homes, and washed them downstream through the Karangahake Gorge. All that was salvageable was the Waikino Hotel and the local community hall, both of which remain operational today. Diane Kiernan won funding for a new bridge and the memorial art wall and managed the the construction of the bridge. Con Kiernan managed the building of the wall. He commissioned works from six mosaic artists and co-ordinated contractors and volunteers to construct the wall which has been built on the site of the row of shops that was swept away.
This is an example of a serious community initiative and of how community artists pooling their talents can achieve a permanent memorial of an historic event. It incorporates six mixed media panels depicting formative aspects of Waikino: early flora and fauna, Maori history, Victoria Battery mining days, art and an alternative era, the flood and its repercussions, and future vision. The panels were created by respective commissioned artists Michael Coles, Trevor Heighway, Irene Wilcocks, Christine Burne, Michael O’Donnell, Shona Laing and Con Kiernan (all locals or with strong links to the area).
Michael Coles begins the series with a mosaic panel of Primordial Karangahake which depicts the original kauri forest of the region, and a collaboration between mosaic artist Con Kiernan and singer/songwriter Shona Laing finishes the series featuring stainless steel words from her song “The River,” originally written for the opening of the memorial bridge. The pieces are linked by the shape of the Ohinemuri river which has been mosaiced into each work to keep it to the forefront of the beautiful Karangahake Gorge.
A video which describes how the six artists including Shona Laing join forces:
Sings ‘Glad I’m not a Kennedy’