December 2011


It was a rainy afternoon on the last day of 2011, so the family and I went out on a drive into the countryside to get out of the house. We ventured into the Reikorangi hills to the east of Waikanae, and just at the junction of Ngatiawa and Kents Road [click here to view map], came across this paddock with a few scattered kahikatea in it. The trees are too small to be original, but are likely to have spontaneously regenerated after the forest that clothed the hills here was cleared. (more…)

Answer: a possum.

Even this little fellow, still not fully grown, would wreak havoc on vegetables and fruit trees, and in an indigenous forest environment, shrubs, trees, bird young and eggs.

Recently, we stayed at our friends’ lifestyle block near Tokomaru, nestled in the foothills of the Tararua Ranges [click here to view map]. (more…)

“Round Bush”, an unassuming reserve near the coastal town of Foxton, Manawatu, is a place of great significance – though a casual passer-by would barely notice it, let alone have any sense of this significance.

A description of this remnant swamp forest is thought to be the first recorded account of the botany of the Manawatu. The account was made by E. J. Wakefield, when he passed the mouth of the Manawatu River by ship in February 1840.

He wrote:  “As we ran along within two miles of the shore I saw a remarkable grove of high pine trees, near the mouth of a river called Manawatu, or ‘hold breath’, which flows into the sea about twenty-five miles from Kapiti.” (more…)

By David Carnegie Young

All my life I had driven through the village, the great iron gates to its cemetery and  spreading oaks speaking of a larger, lost past. From the 1950s I’d watched the gradual decline of a place that, long before my life, had been so much more. There was the smithy, whose hanging door I recall one day remained shut, the shops with their arthritic verandas, old houses that became hidden behind brambles as they staggered under the weight of vegetation and age. The village’s human edges greened and frayed until it was little more than a hamlet. Yet its centre survived.

There was still the Ben Nevis pub, Harry Stirling’s old garage, two churches, a graveyard on the hill and a broken necklace of 1860s wayside architecture where wayfarers might stop for a pie or sandwich and even a browse. (more…)

In keeping with the roading theme [see the last post], I have just finished reading The Line of the Road by M.H. Holcroft, a history of the Manawatu County from 1876 to 1976, published in 1977.

The book was published to commemorate 100 years of the Manawatu County Council (as it was at the time). One of the themes which is reflected strongly both in the book and its title, is the importance of roads and roading (and bridges) in the development of the fledgling county – they were critical to the linking of communities, the distribution of goods, food and building and construction materials, and to get people to schools, hospitals and other facilities (where they existed). (more…)

Just like the Rimutaka Road from Wellington to the Wairarapa (pictured), we at envirohistory NZ are always looking for ways to improve ourselves.

The eagle-eyed among you may have spotted a couple of changes, but the other change involves something that you will not see. (more…)

A couple of weeks back, I took the train to the Wairapara. When we emerged from the tunnel through the Rimutaka Ranges (which at 8.8 kms is one of the longest train tunnels in New Zealand), the landscape was striking. Firstly, what struck me was the sheer scale of the agricultural plains, the indigenous forest that once covered the hills and plains long ago replaced by an orderly patchwork of fields. But, a second glance down onto the plains to the east revealed the presence of a large watery expanse: not blue, exactly – more swirls of green and brown – but unmistakably a lake. (more…)

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