One hundred years ago 21st November 1918

While peace had been declared the Spanish Influenza would take 9,000 lives in New Zealand. The flu was often spread in large gatherings so sports games were cancelled and dances banned.

The epidemic hit Plimmerton and Hongoeka with up to 100 people falling sick. On 20th November 1918 three men were reported to be seriously ill at the temporary hospital set up in St Andrews Church, Steyne Avenue, Plimmerton.

One was Giovanni Martino Mariano (  Jack ) Vella of Skolo House, Steyne Avenue.   Jack died, aged 21, on 21st November 1918 his older sister Metty Vella noting that:

The whole family got sick during the influenza epidemic; we lost my brother Jack in the epidemic. Mother had us all in bed, except herself. She managed to keep going and then my brother was so ill we took him to the emergency hospital in the Anglican Church across the road. It was a shocking thing. It took both young and elderly people.

Another to die was Mr Donald Robertson, Donald was 44 and had operated the Plimmerton Railway Store and later post office from 1900 – 1914.

The third man Ernest Arthur Palmer a lay reader in the Anglican Church had volunteered to work at St Andrews during the epidemic he died in Wellington on 28th November 1918.

News reports in 1918 noted at least three Maori from Hongoeka had also died.

Vella family 1909 – a young Jack seated far right, his sister Metty standing 2nd left – Pataka Art & Museum


Metty Vella 1919- training for handling flu cases – Metty was a Volunteer aid nurse during WW1

St Andrews 1916 copy of postcard

Steyne Avenue pre 1916 Plimmerton with Skolol House on the left and Plimmerton Railway Store and Post Office right

Black Bridge – Pukerua (Airlie) Road and Karehana Park’s petanque court

Black Bridge – Pukerua (Airlie) Road and Karehana Park’s petanque ‘court.’

What is the connection between Pukerua Road, the Black Bridge and the Karehana Park Petanque Court?

By 1912 with the opening of Plimmerton Extension (Karehana Bay) there was a track from Karehana Bay to Pukerua Bay, the Pukerua Road, but this crossed mainly privately owned farm land.

Up to the 1920’s the majority of transport to Plimmerton was by train. There was a ‘road’ from Pauahatanui to Plimmerton but this was a track only for the adventurous.

In 1921 an official road had been formed, now called Grays Road, linking Pauatahanui to Plimmerton for motor vehicles and there was a push to form better access up the Pukerua Road (Airlie Road) to Pukerua Bay.  The road from Karehana Bay crossed over the main trunk railway near Whenu Tapu. An early bridge constructed in 1912 was replaced in 1937 by what became known as the Black Bridge. The Black Bridge’s height, local urban myth relates, was low enough to decapitate any incautious railway driver or engineer although there is no record of this happening.

The opening in 1939 of SH1 meant that the majority of traffic to Pukerua Bay and points north meant that traffic used this route rather than via Karehana Bay. It is about this time that the use of Pukerua Road fell out of favour and Airlie Road became the common usage.

In 2010 the Black Bridge was replaced by a modern double lane concrete structure and the disassembled wood from the bridge was retained by the Porirua City Council (PCC).

In 2015 with the community supported upgrade of Karehana Park the PCC offered to the Plimmerton Residents Association (PRA) a quantity of the wood from the ‘Black Bridge’ to be used for Heritage signs and also to construct the Petanque Court at the Southern End of Karehana Park.

The Touhy Homes petanque court at the northern end of Karehana Park is used during finer weather by locals and visitors and a signage board will be erected outlining the history of the court.