Taradale 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake

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The 7.8 magnitude 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake, which struck on 3 February caused great damage in Taradale, and wrecked two significant buildings in the town: the Taradale hotel and town hall.

Pictured is the Taradale hotel, and while the wooden partitions held firm, the brick walls all collapsed. Mr E Howard was killed as he attempted to leave the building.  The proprietor jumped from the upper floor when the earthquake had finished and landed unhurt.

Architect, E A Williams, made plans in a style of “Modern Spanish” to rebuild the hotel. In would only be a single storey and built in ferro concrete.

The hotel was sold to McDonalds in 1995, who were going to demolish, but instead the Art Deco Trust convinced them to keep the building and the decorative features of the building.

Three school pupils were killed at Greenmeadows primary school.

A worst toll was 15 men killed at the Park Island Men’s Home and two priests and seven students killed at the Mission seminary.

The Otatatara homestead (site now EIT Hawke’s Bay) was destroyed and a nine year old girl was killed in the collapse.

Several Taradale people who either worked or were shopping in Napier were killed also.

Taradale and Greenmeadows suffered a proportionately high death for its population with 32 people losing their lives.

The War Memorial Clock survived, but became like the leaning tower of Pisa, and had to be straightened.

The Taradale town board’s offices, hall and other amenities were also destroyed, but later rebuilt – and like the Taradale hotel, in Art Deco-style.

Culley’s store in Taradale was set up as a food depot, where free bread, meat, eggs and butter were available.

Somewhat of an urgent call went out for tobacco and cigarettes at Taradale and the YMCA was sent a telegram advising them of this after Wellington MP Peter Fraser (future Prime Minister of New Zealand), notified the Public Service Commissioner.  The Government then asked the YMCA to use every possible means to secure supplies of cigarettes and tobacco and to hasten their delivery to Hawke’s Bay.

Greenmeadows’s racecourse (now Anderson Park) was set up as an emergency hospital.

Concern was held a deluge of rain might cause the Tutaekuri river to break its banks, a stop bank was created at the racecourse hospital.

Interestingly, the Taradale Road to Napier was described a couple of days after the earthquake as “sun baked mud”, which would have been what we now know as liquefaction (water-logged sediments near the ground surface). The Taradale Road was built on reclaimed land.

After the earthquake Taradale became more popular as a location to live. Its population in 1936 was 1,206.


  • Article: By Michael Fowler
  • Photo credit: Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank



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