Christchurch floods – This week in history, 3 to 9 July

The 4th of July marks the 40th anniversary of the Christchurch floods in 1977, when hundreds of people were evacuated from their houses. Three days of torrential rain affected the whole of Christchurch and much of Banks Peninsula with water rising up and threats of slips from above.

Particularly affected were those along the Heathcote river with water levels reaching windowsills in some houses in Opawa. Jet boats were used on flooded roads to check houses and help evacuate residents. Slips affected some properties in Lyttelton with part of a road slipping down and hill slips onto properties in Redcliffs.

Thornton Street, 1975 by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License. Kete Christchurch PH14-AlBu-Thornton-Street-1975
Thornton Street, 1975 by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License. Kete Christchurch PH14-AlBu-Thornton-Street-1975

Being built on the flood plain of the Waimakariri River, Canterbury is no stranger to heavy flooding no matter the season. The first stopbanks were built in the 1860s but floods still regularly occurred. This week marks the anniversary of several of these events from the past. From 130 to 5 years ago, all have caused damage, fear and anger, but also given reason to help each other out.

Before QEII expressway work begain. Floods, winter 1986. by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License. Kete Christchurch, PH14-010.
Before QEII expressway work begain. Floods, winter 1986. by CCL Photo Hunt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License. Kete Christchurch, PH14-010.

1887 July 6. Heavy floods damaging roads and bridges. 3 young men drown in the Avon River as a result of a boating mishap.
1908 July 7. Widespread flooding in city and province causing the gasworks to shut down.
1977 July 4. Hundreds evacuated as serious flooding affects city.
1986 July 7. Heavy rain floods northern suburbs of city, badly affecting St Albans and surrounding areas as well as Spreydon.
2011 July 6. Flooding after the earthquake.

Flood 6 July 2011 Avon River NB 06 by Gina Hubert is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License
Flood 6 July 2011 Avon River NB 06 by Gina Hubert is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License. Kete Christchurch Flood 6 July 2011 Avon River NB 06

The Waimakariri River in high flood the stop banks have broken and inundated the countryside, the Main North Road is under water. [1926] CCL PhotoCD 14 IMG0090
The Waimakariri River in high flood the stop banks have broken and inundated the countryside, the Main North Road is under water. [1926] CCL PhotoCD 14 IMG0090
If you have any images of past floods, or any other events that you would like to contribute to a community repository to build on the shared memories of Christchurch, please visit Kete Christchurch.

More Christchurch history

To see more of what happened this week in the past, visit our Christchurch Chronology.

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