Wairau River – ancient and modern engineering

Plan of lagoons and channels dug by Maori at the mouth of the Wairau River, drawn by J.L. D'Arcey Irvine. Alexander Turnbull Library, MapColl 832.2gmtb [pre-1840] Acc. 120
Plan of lagoons and channels dug by Maori at the mouth of the Wairau River, published by W. L. Skinner in 1912. Alexander Turnbull Library, MapColl 832.2gmtb [pre-1840] Acc. 120
In 1963, a major engineering feat was completed on the Wairau River, in the Marlborough district: the Wairau diversion.  The diversion created two Wairau Rivers, one following its original course, which meanders south-east into a network of lagoons, before reaching Cloudy Bay at Wairau Bar. The “new Wairau River” was a channel that connected the river through a cut eastwards to the sea. Continue reading

Landscape of juxtaposition: view from a graveyard

Graveyard and windmillsYesterday, we ventured out on a photography expedition for my near-complete book exploring the environmental history of the Manawatu. (See: A racy title is one thing, but what’s the book actually about?) Many adventures awaited us, including an amorous kunekune pig and his similarly friendly ostrich companion, residents of a historic farm at Karere.

At Ashhurst, I was unable to resist this landscape – a poignant juxtaposition between old and new. Continue reading

Discovering our own “sacred groves”

Mt Haguro Shrine Annie Wu Epoch Times.jpg
Mt Haguro Shrine, Japan. Annie Wu/Epoch Times.

When I lived in Japan, I took great pleasure from visiting Shinto shrines. Though I am not a religious person, there was something very spiritual and calming about these places. They were a place of solace and quietude. Shrines were sometimes only very small and simple affairs – often hidden in an unexpected corner of a bustling urban landscape. Continue reading

Horse anyone? – Exploring the upper limits of the Manawatu

Apiti horse
It was actually the Apiti shack, rather than the horse, for sale. Judging from the state of both the shack and this sign itself, it had been for sale for quite a while. (The horse proved very congenial, so would not have made a bad purchase in itself). Photo: C. Knight

I know Apiti as the small settlement located at the upper limit of the Ahuaturanga (or Upper Manawatu) block, purchased from its Rangitane owners by the government in 1864.

While I had read about it, until today, I had never been to Apiti [click here to view location]. Continue reading

Cameron Blockhouse: a strategic view of the landscape

Cameron Blockhouse
Cameron Blockhouse, overlooking the valley to the north. Photo: C. Knight

Anyone with even a passing interest in Maori history will have recognised the ability of Maori to select sites in the landscape that afforded them both a defensive and strategic advantage over any advancing enemy tribes. Often sites were at the top of cliffs, with sweeping views over plains and down river valleys, frequently bordered on at least one side by a river, which acted as a natural moat. Within the Manawatu, for example, the Rangitane pa sites Otangaki (Ashhurst) and Te Motu o Poutoa (Anzac Park) were examples of sites that took advantage of such geographical features. Continue reading

Ashhurst wetland: the restoration of the wetland that wasn’t

Wetlands below Ashhurst Domain, on a site that was once the course of the Pohangina River
Wetlands below Ashhurst Domain, on a site that was once the course of the Pohangina River

Though we often hear about wetland restoration projects, the Ashhurst wetland, on the river flats below the Ashhurst Domain [click here to view location] is not a case of “restoration” in the normal sense. Continue reading

Rainbow over Linton, Manawatu

Driving back from the Manawatu today, we were lucky enough to encounter our second rainbow of the day. This one was particularly spectacular, set against the dusky blue-grey of the Tararua Ranges, and the dark rain cloud-filled sky. This one “ended” among a cluster of regenerating indigenous trees (possibly totara) on fields on the Manawatu River terraces just south of the Linton Army Camp turn-off [click here to view location]. Continue reading

Wairarapa Moana: a story of dispossession

A couple of weeks back, I took the train to the Wairapara. Emerging 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. What impressed 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. Continue reading

Food basket to floodway: the story of Awapuni Lagoon and Mangaone Stream

A few months ago, I posted the story, The city of hidden lagoons: Palmerston (of the north), which explored the watery history of the Manawatu city of Palmerston North, where I grew up. In particular, the post told a little of the story of the long-forgotten Awapuni Lagoon, which once lay in the south-west corner of the city. This post will add to that story, with the history of the Mangaone Stream, which fed into the Manawatu River in the same area of the lagoon. Continue reading

The city of hidden lagoons: Palmerston (of the north)

I came across this photo on the Manawatu Memory Online site the other day, while looking for an image of early Manawatu history. I was immediately captivated by the image. It is the 1881 photograph of the now long-gone Awapuni Lagoon, located in what is now the south-western corner of Palmerston North city, about where the Awapuni racecourse is today [click here to view map]. Continue reading