Virtual Trip Napier, North Island, New Zealand.

Early Māori History

A large fortified settlement or pā on the hills at the southern edge of what is now Taradale was home to about 3,000 Māori people. Tahe pā was on an excellent defensive site beside the Tutaekuri River with easy access to the Pacific Ocean by canoe.

1931 earthquake

The Hawke’s Bay earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale only lasted two-and-a-half minutes, but it became infamous as the deadliest natural disaster in New Zealand, claiming at least 250 lives and thousands were injured. All but a few of Napier’s buildings were completely destroyed by the earthquake and the fires that followed.

Napier came back from the earthquake with a clean slate and fresh land to build on. One hundred and eleven new buildings were constructed in the downtown area between 1931 and 1933. The vast majority took their cues from Art Deco, the era’s cutting-edge architectural trend. The style is known for its linear structure and touches of intricate ornamentation in the form of geometric motifs like chevrons and zigzags. It was also relatively inexpensive thanks to its basic, boxy designs—a bonus considering that the earthquake struck during the middle of the Great Depression, the worst economic downturn in history.

Napier 2011
Napier 2011
Napier 2011
Comparison map of the extent of Ahuriri Lagoon before(left) and after(right) the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake.

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