Gliding down the steady flow of the Waikanae River, Amanda Gibbons watched from her raft as her son followed closely behind on an inflatable donut ring, the branches of nearby trees brushing them as they passed.

Moments later, however, the pair were thrown into sudden and fast-flowing rapids.

Unable to stop, Gibbons was pushed towards a fallen tree spanning the width of the stream, opposite the Greenaway Rd entrance to the Waikanae River.

"I've never been so scared," said Gibbons, who used social media to warn of the danger.


On Wednesday, January 4, the Waikanae local, her son Jayden, 8, and two other family members had enjoyed a bikeride along the river track before deciding to make the most of the sunny day rafting down the river.

"We started at the Waikanae Bridge and as we approached about halfway, there was a fallen tree across the river, causing very strong rapids.

"We hit the tree and flipped out of our boats and got stuck, with the current trying to pull us under."

Luckily, Jayden was thrown onto the top of the tree stump, from which he climbed to the neighbouring bank and onto the walkway.

Gibbons, however, was pulled beneath the water and under the tree stump.

"Adrenaline kicked in and I knew I had to get my boy out.

"I somehow ended up getting onto the tree stump and then pulled myself onto the bank, on the opposite side of the river to Jayden. I cut my feet walking so fast back to the bridge so I could hug him.

"When we got there 25 minutes later, there were a few tears."

Despite having lost a hat, shorts, sunglasses and one of their oars, the group was relieved to have got out alive.

According to Gibbons, they were not the only family who came across the tree.

A tree branch that covered the width of the Waikanae River and has since been moved.
A tree branch that covered the width of the Waikanae River and has since been moved.

"The following Sunday, I returned past the river spot during a bike ride, where I saw another family that had just had a similar incidence and lost their car keys, which were in a plastic bag. There were also some kayakers, grown men, who I spoke to and they said it was one of the scariest things they'd experienced because they too were thrown into the water."

Using a digger, Greater Wellington Regional Council's flood protection team pulled the log out on Monday morning last week.

"It was nature doing what nature does," flood protection team section leader Jeff Evans said. "Things fall in and banks erode and so we remove any hazards as required."

Gibbons applauded the council for promptly removing the tree after being alerted by members of the community. She said she had not worn a life jacket for "just cruising down the river", bnut would in future.

"The river was definitely not as smooth as we thought it would be.

"It's dangerous, especially for young kids if they panic and don't know what to do in that kind of situation. I just want people to be cautious."