While researching the clues for a cache at Pohangina wetlands the other day, I stumbled across this not-so-fun fact: scientists estimate that more than 98 of percent of kahikatea forest, which grew in lowland, swampier areas, has been lost nationwide since European colonisation of New Zealand. In the Manawatu region, where wetlands once covered much of the river plains extending from Palmerston North out to the coast, more than 90 per cent of wetlands have been lost. This is a tragic legacy of European settlement, but also makes the Pohangina Wetlands all the more special.
In 2000, Gordon and Anne Pilone purchased some swampy land next to their home near Pohangina Village with the aim of recreating wetlands there. They centred their restoration efforts on a scattering of kahikatea trees that had survived the milling and burning of a century before. They dug lakes and planted hundreds of trees in successive years, and today the wetlands are home to rarer wetland species, such as tētē (grey teal), kōtuku (white heron), white-faced heron and royal spoonbill, as well as the more common indigenous species, such as pūkeko and paradise shelduck. The wetlands are now protected in perpetuity by a QEII covenant.
Charles Wildbore himself farmed part of the area that is now wetland. The swampy nature of the land no doubt challenged both him and subsequent landowners attempting to farm this land, which defied their attempts to drain it and extinguish its swampy origins.
There are two geocaches in the Pohangina Wetlands. Why not try finding them and some of the other 20-plus Wildbore geocaching series caches (see map below), and enjoy a day out exploring new landscapes and their history?
To learn more about the history of wetlands in the Manawatu, see Ravaged Beauty: An environmental history of the Manawatu (Dunmore Press, 2014).