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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Climate of the Region

The frequent comparison of Hawke's Bay with the Wairarapa is inevitable, for both regions are structurally part of the North Island eastern hill country, and stemming from this basic geological unity are many physiographic and even climatic similarities. The western ranges produce a rain-shadow effect on Hawke's Bay which is noted for its low rainfall and large number of sunshine hours. Napier has, after Nelson and Blenheim, the third highest annual average for hours of bright sunshine, 2,320. The mean daily maximum temperature for the whole year averages 64·8F; the mean daily minimum, 48·7F. In January the mean day maximum reaches 73·9F. The average number of rain days is 114, the average annual rainfall being 31·2 in.

In the vicinity of Dannevirke the likeness to the northern Wairarapa is complete. The trend of country is NNE-SSW with the basic pattern of main axial range, “vale”, and eastern hill country. The Ruahine Range reaches an altitude of 3,500 ft in this district. It is bush covered and its slopes fall sharply towards the “vale” which is composed of the alluvium of the Manawatu and its tributaries lying above sedimentary materials. The Manawatu system has dissected the area into a pattern of broad interfluves and deep square-bottomed valleys. Immediately to the east higher ranges composed of Tertiary rocks are found; the Waewaepa (2,500 ft), the Whangai, and the Turiri Ranges obtain an altitude close to 2,000 ft. Further east towards the coast there is a succession of ridges and valleys characteristic of this hill country. In this part of the region the hill country was originally covered with bush and, like most of the bush country, was settled by men with limited capital who engaged in small-scale farming. Now the hill country is farmed in large units for store sheep, for the topography is unsuited for dairy farming and the district as a whole is too inaccessible.

The belt of country at the foot of the Ruahine Range and extending from Woodville in the south to Norsewood in the north is largely dairying country. More than anything else, the excellent black top and wide country roads illustrate the prosperity of the area and suggest the volume of traffic associated with the transportation of milk to the dairy factories. Two factors help to explain the existence of dairying: the higher rainfall (annual average rainfall at Woodville is 50·46 in. and 178 days with rain) and the pattern of small properties arising out of the settlement of the bush. It is noticeable, therefore, that the number of cows in milk per hundred sheep shorn is highest in Woodville County, 4·98, and that the average size of holding, 266 acres, is the lowest for the whole region. Nevertheless, the raising of fat lambs is not an unimportant farming activity.

In the latitude of Waipukurau the Ruahines obtain an altitude of over 5,000 ft, and the eastern hill country is a little lower and the climate a little drier. The principal change occurs in the “vale”, which is now composed of the gravels poured out by the Tukituki system and which appears as a huge extent of flat, imperceptibly sloping land. It is droughty land subjected to strong drying winds, which account for the shelter belts that have broken the vistas of the old Ruataniwha Plains, but, nevertheless, it is excellent fat-lamb country. At Waipukurau and Waipawa the rivers break the escarpment of the Raukawa Range, which stands as a spectacular ridge of limestone (1,374 ft) above Otane and Lake Poukawa, both favoured farming districts. Between the Raukawa and Wakarara Range (highest point 3,307 ft) is a belt of level country over a thousand feet in altitude and intricately dissected by the tributaries of the Waipawa and the Ngaruroro system. This is a rich piece of sheep-farming country containing a number of very attractive and prosperous holdings, rarely visited by tourists, but offering some superb vistas to the north. Like Dannevirke, which is the main marketing centre for the southern districts, Waipawa and Waipukurau, with their important sheep sales, perform the same functions for the surrounding district. In addition, there are a number of smaller settlements, the most important of which is Takapau, acting as local servicing centres for the rural community. Some of them, like Ongaonga and Tikokino, were originally bush settlements and concerned with the timber trade. Others, like Ashley Clinton and Makaretu, had similar origins but now have no nucleated settlement whatsoever.

The most celebrated district of Hawke's Bay, the Heretaunga Plains, is composed of the deposits and gravels of the Tutaekuri, Ngaruroro, and Tukituki Rivers, which, with their varying materials, levels of deposition, and water tables, give rise to a rich complex of soils carrying fat lambs, a great deal of cropping, and, notably, orchards and market gardens. Cropping, especially for the canning and freezing industry, is a largely post-war development, and in the season 1959–60, 5,391 acres of vegetable crops for processing were reported, compared with 1,615 acres for the 1951–52 season. This spectacular development should not obscure the 7,657 acres of chou moellier and the 2,992 acres of rape which are grown for fodder crops, or the production of grass seed (5,449 acres), but none of these activities is as strictly located in the Heretaunga Plains as is the production of vegetables. With 4,801 acres of orchards and market gardens, largely in the vicinity of Hastings, Hawke's Bay ranks as the second region of production in New Zealand. Apples account for approximately two-thirds of the value of production, with peaches and pears tying for second place and apricots coming in third place. Three hundred and eighty-seven acres of vineyard, worked by 15 growers, are located on the lower slopes of the hills near Taradale and Havelock North, and a range of white and red wines is produced.

North of Napier the characteristic features of Hawke's Bay are gradually overwhelmed in a landscape which has more affinities with the East Cape. In the vicinity of Sherenden and Rissington the sweeping and well groomed landscapes of the Hawke's Bay back country are preserved. But beyond Tutira towards the Mohaka River and Waikaremoana, the land is more broken, the soils poor, and the pastures subjected to weed infestation. Access is difficult and the population is either dispersed and lightly settled or concentrated in the coastal regions, especially near to Wairoa. Indicative of the more extensive nature of farming is the average size of holding for Wairoa county, 1,087 acres, and quite significant is the low rate of growth both of the numbers of sheep shorn (3·73 per cent) and of lambs shorn (28·51 per cent) in the period 1951—52 to 1959—60, compared with the respective regional totals of 14·28 per cent and 7140 per cent.