The only visible part of the Makirikiri creek today in Hastings is where it surfaces at Windsor Park. Credit: Hastings District Council

The earliest map of Hastings that I have seen dates from the early 1860s. It shows the boundaries of the Heretaunga Plains defined by the Ngaruroro River and Waitio Stream.

Running within this boundary was a creek called Makirikiri – which in Māori means stony creek. It is a tributary of the Ngaruroro River.

The Hastings Town Board asked for tenders in 1885 to fill in the creek where it crossed Havelock (now Heretaunga) Road, Railway Road and Queen Street. This put the creek underground in this location.

In 1890, the Hastings Borough Council diverted the creek from going into the racecourse by putting it into the Southland drain. This caused problems further away in Hastings East when the drain overflowed. Alfred Masters’ hop grounds near Windsor Park were flooded because of insufficient outlets. He took a successful case against the Hastings Borough Council in 1894, and other property owners petitioned the Council to redirect the creek to its natural course.

As the creek ran through several streets, such as Victoria Street, this caused a number of problems and those trying to get to Heretaunga School (where the Mega Business Park is now) from Hastings East could only get across by foot.

A temporary road had to be made over the creek for wheel traffic.

The creek caused a number of problems with stagnant water and flooding. Some property owners split costs 50/50 with the Council to put the creek underground with pipes, while others were not happy about the Council doing work on their property. The Council’s response was that a riverbed was their property, and not private.

In 1898, works began to alleviate the problem in north-east Hastings by restoring the creek’s original path, so it no longer diverted to the Southland drain. The plan was to make the creek six feet (1.8m) deep and as wide as the location would allow.

About this time the creek was dammed to form a lake on the racecourse grounds.

In 1900, the 1898 works were deemed to be a success in restoring the creek, and eels and carp in the creek were said to be plentiful.

The Makirikiri was used for a water supply for the fire brigade in north-east Hastings.

In 1910, pipes were laid from Avenue Road to Ellison Road to carry the creek underground, and the racecourse lake was drained and filled in during 1914. There was, however, a wash pool in the racecourse caused by the Makirikiri where jockeys would take their horses. This remained at least until the 1940s.

Contour survey plan of Hastings Borough. Credit: Hastings District Council

Makirikiri creek at Windsor Park was widened by work schemes during the 1930s Great Depression to form the boating lake.

Since the 1930s the creek has been gradually been piped underground all over Hastings.

A 1941 map prepared by Hastings Borough Council engineer Mr R Fish, shows Makirikiri Creek beginning at the site of the Hawke’s Bay Fallen Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, near Canning Road. As shown by the map, blue dotted lines indicate that by this time the creek had been either piped or diverted through the stormwater system, except for the Windsor Park area and the wash pool at the racecourse.

Since the 1941 map, after the Makirikiri leaves Windsor Park, it is piped underground and then surfaces past Summerset in the Orchard retirement village in Ada Street to flow towards Te Karamu stream.

The creek flows directly beneath the Hawke’s Bay Opera House at about two metres underground and can be heard in the building.

During the various theatre renovations, pumps have been required to disperse the water.

When the Hastings Municipal Buildings were being constructed in 1916, the builders, Stanley Brothers, used shingle from the nearby old Makirikiri creekbed for the concrete aggregate.

Therefore, both the Hawke’s Bay Opera House and former Municipal Buildings have two elements of the Makirikiri creek – water running underneath and stones used in construction. I understand the creek will be represented as part of the design in the renovations.

• Coming soon, Historic Hawke’s Bay by Michael Fowler. A collection of his best articles 2016-2018. Email [email protected] for pre-order information.

• Michael Fowler ([email protected]) is a chartered accountant and contract researcher of Hawke’s Bay’s history.