Communicating in bygone days

By: Bev Ross

For the next few months, Mangawhai Museum has a special exhibition, “Bringing the World Closer,” on the topic of communications. The display depicts the variety of methods of communication since early human arrivals to the district and is sponsored by Hawaiki. Since early settlers came to Mangawhai, roading has been at the top of their to-do lists. It wasn’t until 1976 that a causeway connected the village to the “heads” areas. Prior to that, folk had to take the Tara Road then Cove Road to reach the turn-off to get to the coast.  

Paul Speedy decided to memorialize the causeway drive by planting norfolk pines along each side of the road. He collected seed from his property at Ruawai and germinated them on old dampened sacks. When the plants were about 60cm high, he had the help of Lin Ball to plant them out on the Mangawhai/Molesworth side of the causeway. Most have survived but many have gone, leaving gaps. But there are enough to give a formal entry to the Molesworth side of Mangawhai. The new Mangawhai museum stands tall at the beginning of the “norfolk pine parade.” Nestled nearby are several buildings of a bygone era, which make up the Mangawhai Pioneer Village complex.

The grand opening of the causeway linking Mangawhai village to the “heads” was officiated by Jim Crompton, chairman of Otamatea County Council, on 22 November 1976.  It was a major event for the district. 

Not yet completed, the complex consists of the Tara Road School, which began life as the first official Department of Education school for the district in 1872. Its original location was on Lawrence Road, Hakaru, until 1891. Afterwards, it was hauled by bullock teams to the Tara Cemetery corner. In 1927, it was dismantled and moved to Browns Road on Stewart property. In 1945, it was again dismantled and taken to Hilton Brown’s section on Tara Road.  

The Arai and Mangawhai Library (also part of the complex) was built at Te Arai in 1928. As the little village of Te Arai vanished, it was on its own. Ti-tree grew high around it, yet local folk still attended it and borrowed and returned books from within. It was later moved to a location on Hodgeson’s Corner (at the Te Arai Point turn-off), which was more convenient for local readers.  Over 600 library books are still together and in the care of the museum.

An early Post Office, that once stood on the site of Mangawhai Police Station, has also been recognised as a worthy edifice of times gone by. It now stands in the Pioneer Village complex and will have its former workings restored and opened for all to see.  

The first Mangawhai Beach school, which opened in 1886, knew the sounds of teachers and pupils until 1957. In that year, a new school was opened leaving the old one bereft of value, until it was transformed into an Anglican Church. Now being restored, it looks dignified in its latest place of honour at the complex.

There will be other buildings joining those already on the site of the complex. Meanwhile, it is a pleasure to watch progress as the newly rejuvenated buildings spring to life again.

by Bev Ross, Mangawhai Museum


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