Story: Manawatū and Horowhenua places

Page 7. Beneath the Tararua Range

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Linton

Locality and railway station on the Wellington–Manawatū rail line, 11 km south-west of Palmerston North. Linton was named after Palmerston North early settler and mayor James Linton, but no township developed. In 1945 Linton military camp was built 3.5 kilometres to the north-east. This became the country’s largest in 1985 when the permanent force at Singapore was relocated there. More units have transferred from Auckland and Waiōuru. An adjacent prison, first for youths and later for adults, opened in 1971. In 2013 the military camp had a population of 1,347.

Tokomaru

Township 21 km south-west of Palmerston North, with a 2013 population of 552. Tokomaru started as a station on the Wellington–Manawatū railway line in 1886. It lies in a farming district extending north to Linton and west to Ōpiki, between the Manawatū River and the Tararua Range. The steam engine museum, a private collection, has drawn visitors since 1970.

Hard work at Ōpiki

In the 1940s and 1950s several Māori families lived in camps at Ōpiki, working for vegetable growers. May Te Peeti recalled that ‘children worked alongside their parents, digging up potatoes, carrots, and parsnips with four-pronged forks and shearing knives … Steel from the old winding gramophones was the best for making special knives to weed rows and rows of onions a mile long’. 1

Ōpiki

Former flax-growing area on State Highway 56, on the south (left) bank of the Manawatū River. Converted into farms in the 1920s, it was mostly pasture except for some potato and onion cropping. A distinctive suspension toll bridge across the river operated from 1918 to 1969.

Shannon

Township 30 km south-west of Palmerston North and 17 km north-east of Levin, with a 2013 population of 1,239. Known as Te Maire, the town planned on the site by the New Zealand Company in the 1840s was never built. The first settlers to Shannon, named after a director of the Wellington and Manawatū Railway company, arrived after land sales in 1887. Flax milling, the development of farmland, and dam building at Mangahao kept the town buoyant until the 1920s.

Many Māori casual workers were re-housed in Shannon from rural shacks in the 1950s and 1960s. In 2013, 42.8% of the population identified with Māori ethnicity (compared with 14.9% nationally). Manufacturing businesses, set up in the 1960s, were reduced to only one by 1987. In 2013 the Richmond fellmongery, the town’s largest employer, closed. Owlcatraz, an educational park, is a tourist attraction.

Mangahao power station and dams

Located 10 km into the Tararua Range from Shannon. Water from the east-flowing Mangahao River is channelled through pipelines on the steep slope above the station. The drop is more than five times that at Niagara Falls in North America, ending at the west-flowing Mangaore Stream.

The risk of sudden floods complicated construction in the 1920s. The river’s normal flow could quickly become a massive 510 cubic metres per second, sweeping away equipment and levelling earthworks. The tunnelling was also dangerous, and seven people died. Prime Minister Bill Massey opened the dam on 3 November 1924. At that time Mangahao was the country’s largest power station, but it is now one of the smallest. Today it has a capacity of 38 MW, compared with 360 MW for the Tongariro power scheme, for example. Mangahao is run by Todd Energy and King Country Energy. Annual national kayak and canoe championships are held on the Mangaore Stream.

Footnotes:
  1. Quoted in From fibre to food: Opiki, the district and its development, 1928–2003. Palmerston North: Ōpiki 75th Jubilee Committee, 2003, p. 5. › Back
How to cite this page:

Malcolm McKinnon, 'Manawatū and Horowhenua places - Beneath the Tararua Range', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/manawatu-and-horowhenua-places/page-7 (accessed 16 November 2018)

Story by Malcolm McKinnon, published 24 Jul 2006, updated 22 Apr 2015