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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.



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Farming Problems

Aotuhia lies to the south of Whangamomona, in the valley of the Whangamomona Stream, which is a tributary of the Wanganui River. The bushland, mostly under tawa, was opened up in 1893 and excellent pastures were established on the steep hills. In the early twenties the pastures began to deteriorate rapidly and became infested with bracken, hard fern, and manuka scrub. Erosion was accelerated and eventually 23,500 acres were abandoned. The remaining farmers were forced to leave the area during the Second World War after heavy rains had so extensively damaged the roads as to render their repair uneconomic. The area is now totally abandoned. About Whangamomona itself the farmers managed to hold out. The small holdings were aggregated into workable units and the roading problems were not so difficult. But it was clear that fundamental research directed towards an understanding of local soil conditions and an improvement of pastures would provide the only long-term solution to their problems. The research received Government support and the subsequent investigations have proved basic to the consolidation of the farmers' position. After more than 60 years of European occupation half the area, 54·4 per cent, remains in forest, and a quarter, that is, 24·8 per cent, is in scrub and scattered grass. Only 17·2 per cent of the total area now remains under grass.

As a result of this history the Western Uplands acquired a popular reputation as a difficult farming area. It came rather as a surprise, therefore, to learn in the post-war years that, when evaluating the livestock potentiality of the North Island, the officers of the Department of Agriculture reckoned the Western Uplands to have, after the Central Plateau and North Auckland, the highest “most likely potential” for increase in livestock numbers during the period 1948–75. In obtaining this potential increase the region would move in importance from the rank of seventh to that of fifth among the North Island livestock regions. High prices enabling the greater use of fertilisers, especially with aerial topdressing, would increase the cattle-carrying capacity of the pastures and therefore control second growth – thus ran the reasoning behind the estimates. And therefore, even in Whangamomona County, land development by the State is under way once more. At Kohuratahi 6,407 acres and at Mount Dampier 6,151 acres are undergoing development, and progress is being made in the Pohokura district. In the Whangamomona area alone a total of 54,611 acres is considered as suitable for development.