Saturday, August 12, 2006

Border Country (part one)

I've been spending some time on my parents' farm in Drury, an area just south of Auckland which was once dominated by dairy farms but is now being subdivided into 'lifestyle blocs' - that is, into five acre lawns for yuppie commuters who fancy themselves as part-time country squires.

My parents' farm sits at the bottom of the volcanic Drury Hills, which are the site of Maketu Pa, a fortress and kainga (village) occupied by Maori from 1720 to 1863. (You can see a computer reconstruction of the pa here.) By the time European settlers were appearing in the south Auckland area the pa was associated with Waiohua, an iwi (tribe) based in Mangere with ties to the large Tainui iwi centred on the Waikato region. Early in 1863 the British army pushed the Great South Road through Drury towards the border of the independent Kingdom Tainui and had declared in the Waikato.

Tainui and their allies began a campaign of guerilla war designed to stop the road: the houses of settlers were raided and burnt, surveyors' pegs were pulled up, and detachments of the British army were ambushed. Fearing an invasion of Auckland from the Waikato, the government established the 'Forest Rangers', an irregular force which was led by the notorious Gustavus von Tempsky and charged with matching the native insurgents at their own game. The Forest Rangers were soon fighting hit and run battles with Maori in the wild Hunua Ranges which rise beyond the Drury Hills.

The Waikato was invaded in July 1863, and after the victory of the British army there Maketu Pa and the land around it was confiscated and sold to settlers, many of whom were recent arrivals from South Africa. A community of small farming families developed around the site of the pa, and soon got the name 'Peach Hill' because of the many peach and other fruit trees that were planted in the Drury Hills. Like many of the new small farming communities founded on confiscated land, Peach Hill proved unsuccessful, and today all that remains of it are a graveyard partially overgrown by bush and a few stone walls. With the advent of refrigerated shipping in the 1880s, larger-scale dairy and sheep farms would succeed where the small farmers had failed.

Today Maketu Pa is a little-known and little-visited historic reserve. A couple of crude fences attempt to protect historic earthworks - kumara pits, and terracing, and tranverse ditches - from marauding cows.

Check out this website dedicated to the pa. It has photos of one of the old Peach Hill gravestones and an 1880 painting of the scene, as well as that computer recreation...


Blogger Himself said...

Do not use blogger's photo upload facility. Upload your pictures to photobucket and directlink them.

8:20 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Thanks for the advice, but how do I do that? I mean, what's photobucket? Sorry to have to ask but I'm a moron where computers are concerned...

8:28 pm  

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