The town that lost its river: the sad story of Piriharakeke

The history and identity of the Horowhenua coastal town of Foxton is intrinsically linked to the Manawatu River. It was once a bustling port town, with ships loaded with flax, timber and other goods travelling down the river and out to markets in Wellington and beyond. While coastal shipping had largely ceased by the early 20th century, the wharf and the river that it served, was an integral part of the town’s identity and economy. Continue reading

Omarupapaku “Old Mother Parker”: the forest that was

“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.” Continue reading

Halting the great sand-drift: the “exoticisation” of our coast

Growing up in the Manawatu, I took for granted the largely homogeneous dune landscape of Himatangi, Foxton and other west-coast beaches – oblivious to the fact that this was a primarily man-made landscape. As Raewyn Peart explains in “Castles in the Sand”, the appearance of sand dunes have been extensively modified, firstly through deforestation, and then through intensive re-stabilisation efforts from the 1930s onwards. Continue reading