This photo is taken from State Highway 57 on the south-eastern side of Levin, in the southern North Island district of Horowhenua [click here to view approximate location]. In the foreground sheep graze, while the in the background, the bush-covered foothills of the Tararua Ranges, then the Ranges themselves – capped with a light sprinkling of the first winter snow – can be seen. When viewed from Horowhenua, the Tararuas often have a distinctively blueish tinge – providing a striking contrast to the green expanse of pastoral and horticultural fields in this largely agrarian district.

“Horowhenua” is made up of the word “horo” meaning “landslide” and “whenua” meaning “land”; combined, meaning of “the great landslide”. In Horowhenua – its Maori place-names & their topographic & historic background, published 1948, the author, G. Leslie Adkin, states that the name “… apparently indicates that the old-time Maori possessed some glimmering of the purport of geological phenomena, the sloping gravel plain extending from Levin southwards towards the Ohau River – i.e., the old fan of that river – having for him the appearance of a great outrush of detritus from the mountains, in brief, a slide.”

It is the alluvial soil (fine-grained fertile soil deposited by water flowing over flood plains) produced by this “geological phenomenon” alluded to in its Maori name that provides the district with its fertility, making it well suited to horticulture. Indeed it has one of the biggest concentrations of market gardens of any district in New Zealand – mainly run by families of Chinese descent, whose ancestors were no doubt attracted to the district by its outstanding fertility.

Photo: C. Knight

Sources/further reading: Horowhenua – its Maori place-names & their topographic & historic background, (1948), by G. Leslie Adkin,