Moxham Avenue runs down a valley between the Town Belt on the west and a ridge on the east topped by Overtoun Terrace. Formerly the Waipapa stream flowed down the west side of the valley. It had two headwater branches, one from the northern end of Alexandra Road past the bus tunnel, and one from just below Hataitai School at Arawa Road which travelled between Hataitai Road and Waipapa Road (Arcus Way). This joined the first branch at Taurima Street and then the stream flowed down between Ruahine Street and Moxham Ave as far as the Mormon church. Then it crossed the road and went down between Hamilton Road and Wellington Road to the beach at Evan's Bay, which used to be closer than it is now. A marine chart from 1826 marks the stream outlet as 'Good Water'.
There were at least two creeks that came off the Town Belt and joined the Waipapa stream along Moxham Ave. Around 1900 there was a pond where the Bowling Club green is now, and there was another pond (manmade) down by Wellington Road which was used by Bourke's wool-scouring business. An angry local wrote to the Evening Post about Bourke's pond:
That cesspool has been a nuisance to everybody in Kilbirnie for years. The whole of North Kilbirnie drains into it, so you may judge the state of the filth that comes from it when the water is allowed to run off, and the rotten matter is then put on to a Chinaman's garden to grow vegetables, which are consumed by the people of Wellington. This is alone enough to breed disease, let alone the stench which comes from the dam. (EP 30 April 1900)
Correspondence regarding the drains began early. In June 1909 the Council served notice on some residents on the stream side of Moxham Ave that it wished to put a public drain through their properties. In September that year the Minute Books record that "The Outlying Districts Committee has received a petition from residents of North Kilbirnie praying that the Council should take over the Waipapa stream and declare it a public drain and have it culverted". The City Engineer responded that when the new drainage system [ie sewer] was completed there would be no more nuisance from the stream. At the same time the Council was arranging to pay compensation to Mr Cheeseman of 22 Moxham so that they could move his building back and culvert the stream below it. It seems the sewer was built but the stream still served for rainwater runoff.
One dissenting voice was Mr Bourke who had a wool scouring business near the intersection of Wellington Road and Hamilton Road. He requested that the Council not drain properties at Moxham Ave until all properties had been connected to the sewer (presumably a culvert would affect his wool-scouring pond).
Minute Books record that in October 1915 a petition was received from property owners at Moxham Ave asking that the stream be culverted. The matter was referred to the City Engineer, but nothing seems to have been done at that time.
Albert Jorgensen had been living at 148 Moxham Ave since at least 1911. In 1916 he wrote to the council saying he had received notice that the council intended to construct a public drain to take stormwater from the town belt through 15" pipes to the Waipapa stream. He objected to the proposed work because "the council has for years past ...concentrated water into this stream without making provision for carrying the water away. The stream in times of heavy rains is already full to overflowing... any further concentration of water will result in flooding and consequently in damaging or rendering useless a portion of my property." The City Engineer reported that the bog at the back of Jorgensen's property was being drained, but said that no extra water would come through the drain during flood times. He thought that Jorgensen's objective was to have the council culvert Waipapa stream. However, the city Solicitor was of the opinion that the Council would be liable for any damage caused to Jorgensen's property and that the council probably would have to culvert the stream.
In May 1917 longterm resident Edwin Taylor wrote about "the serious condition of the creek that runs through Moxham Avenue. The great quantity of storm and other water that now runs into it, owing to the council connecting all storm water from Hataitai upper levels and also from the Tunnel, the extra water is causing the creek to cave in thereby flooding my land [present day Park Mews apartments] which is in imminent danger of washing away." The City Engineer conceded that there was a problem. "Damage is likely to be caused to the natural banks of the stream. No greater area has been added to the catchment area naturally draining through the stream referred to, but the construction of roads and stormwater drains, as well as the discharge from roofs and paved areas contributes to a more rapid discharge than under natural conditions." The engineer reported on the cost of constructing three sections of culvert to extend the length of Moxham Ave and connect to the existing culvert which crossed Moxham Ave and Waitoa Street. At the lower end Mr Bourke had his wool scouring business using water from the stream, so this section would not be culverted to the existing culvert at the intersection of Wellington and Hamilton Roads. The Finance Committee recommended that provision be made for a culvert (3'6" x 3') at Moxham Ave, at an estimated expenditure of £880.
Apparently only the upper portion was culverted at that time. In March 1919 Jorgensen and his neighbours were agitating again. They wrote asking the Council to culvert the Waipapa stream from Goa St to Moxham Ave. "The stream in wet weather carries a large volume of water and in times of heavy rain is insufficient to carry off the water without flooding." The council replied that it would make provision for the work during the next financial year.
In March 1920 Mr Chisholm from 88 Moxham complained about construction of a new road on the town belt. A creek coming off the hill was diverted onto the fence of his property "which is in danger of being washed away in the event of heavy rains causing the creek to flood". Council reported that the road builders had put in a 9' pipe to take the water. But presumably this pipe discharged into the Waipapa culvert?
In 1923 Mr Cundy of 143 Moxham (corner of present day Moxham and Kupe Sts) wrote about the by now covered stream. " The drain has been covered in the whole length of Moxham Ave from Hataitai until it emerges alongside my property. From the mouth of this drain comes a very nasty smell." Council replied that the portion of the Town Belt to the north and west of Tapiri St was used by the residents along Moxham Ave for grazing cows and horses, as a poultry run and as a dumping ground for rubbish. "The open drain along the backs of theses dwellings is in a bad state and every shower of rain washes a certain amount of offensive matter into the closed-in portion of the drain between Tapiri St and Moxham Ave." The engineer suggested fencing off the open drain to keep cattle out. The council had been aware of the pollution problem for at least 10 years.
Another flooding problem was reported in 1923 by Mr Barton and Mr Partridge of 161 and 163 Moxham. The Dept of Health inspector visited and noted that the culvert appeared to be not large enough to cope with abnormal floods pouring from the Town Belt and other surfaces in Hataitai. The sluice gate at Bourkes wool scouring didn't seem to be a problem but he recommended it be kept open in times of heavy rain.
By 1935 the council seems to have changed its attitude. Mr Scott of 96 Moxham wrote about "the serious flooding...it is worse than the previous winter and judging from the colour of the water does not appear to be wholly due to the flow of seepage." The City engineer's report stated that "the trouble is entirely due to the fact that the property is situated well below the level of the road and in the basin of what originally was a very considerable stream. This stream has been enclosed and the culvert now actually runs through Mr Scott's property. We have had in the past similar complaints and it has been found that the whole of this area in the vicinity of the old stream is extremely swampy." The City Solicitor went on: "Ground water and surface water which got on to the holdings immediately adjoining the culverted stream formerly escaped over and through the banks of the stream into the stream. The enclosure of the stream has now rendered this impossible. This enclosure was done probably over twenty years ago at the request of the inhabitants to do away with the nuisance arising from the stream running through their properties. While removing one source of annoyance the Corporation has practically created another." The Engineer suggested field-pipe drainage but said it would be expensive. On this occasion Mr Scott apparently agreed to undertake remedial work at no cost to the Council.
In August 1938 Mr Ting of 140 Moxham (present day Mormon church) wrote that his house and grounds had been flooded for the second time through the Council drain being blocked. Water in his basement was three feet deep. The City Solicitor reported that the flooding would have happened apart from any works done by the Corporation, and would probably have been greater if the works had not existed. Council accepted no liability.
In 1948 the Council received a letter from a law firm acting on behalf of Miss Howard at 84 Moxham, whose property " is very seriously affected by subsoil water. This side of Moxham Avenue is an old swampy area and although traversed with a main stormwater drain it is not possible to use it to drain the section as its top water is at surface level." The City Engineer suggested laying an additional pipe and said "although the Council does not appear to have any liability in the matter, they have in the past assisted other owners similarly placed."
Problems must have continued, because in 1958 the City Engineer's section approached Mr Botham at 38 Moxham requesting that the council undertake excavation work in his garden to replace the existing drains with larger ones. The work took several weeks and Mr Botham was pleased to report to the council that his garden had been carefully reinstalled.
Early correspondence files at Wellington City Archives.
The Waipapa Stream today - a culvert approximately one metre square that runs under gardens in Moxham Ave.