Sunday, January 27, 2008

Who needs Tangiers? We've got Ohura...

Let's face it - Bohemia ain't what it used to be. London is over-run with Kiwi expats doing the OE thing, Hemingway's Paris is unbearably expensive, and Tangiers is full of American poseurs scribbling the sequel to On The Road in boutique cafes. Down here in New Zild, Frank Sargeson's Takapuna has become a yuppie wonderland, and Dunedin is infested with faded Flying Nun stars more interested in shooting up than rehearsing.

I want to propose the lovely little town of Ohura, in the hinterland of the King Country, as a new locus for writers, musos, painters, and home brewers. Situated in the magical triangle between Taumaranui, Waitomo, and the wild west coast, near the centre of King Tawhiao's old 'country of the hat', Ohura owes its existence to the inexplicable decision of bureaucrats to send the railroad to New Plymouth branching off the main trunk line before Taumaranui, the town which was supposed to be the nerve centre of the whole North Island railway system.

For whatever obscure reason, the line detaches itself after Te Kuiti, wanders through fifty kilometres of hilly country, and then aligns itself with the road that runs out of Taumaranui down to the 'Naki and New Plymouth. Two service towns, Ohura and the even smaller Matiere, were built to justify the detour. Since the deregulation of rail in the '80s and the steep drop in freighting volumes, Ohura has been in decline. A small prison plugged the gap for a while, but when it was closed a few years ago the town's population shrank again. Enter the arty-farty types, lured by cheap house prices, a beautiful sheltered valley, and - the legacy of that prison - a buried fibre optic cable.

Here are some photos Skyler, Muzzlehatch and I took on Boxing Day, when we drove down to case out Ohura. You know you want to move there.


Blogger Richard said...

You are sure you were in NZ -is Ohura a part of NZ?

That last pic shows an intricately designed machine (traction Hover craft?) - a beautiful example of the wonderful technological capacity of the human species....

11:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about the RAT BONES Maps?
YOU have no ANSWER to those BONES!



10:29 am  
Blogger maps said...

Well in two respects it may not be part of NZ:

it was a part of the Rohe Potae or 'country of the hat' that was de facto indepdedent from 1864-1883 (Waikato retreated there after defeat further north in the war),

and the nearby (by country standards) town of Whangamomona declares indepdence annually, and sells passports year round:

2:41 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It may or may not make the place more appealing in the present day, but in your enthusiasm for Ohura, you should recall how it was placed under a reign of terror during the 1951 waterfront lockout. For daring to strike, along with fellow miners elsewhere, against PM Holland's emergency regulations (for which the term 'fascist' is, for once, entirely appropriate), Ohura became what Dick Scott described as "the Government's model mining town - Nazi-occupied territory model".
Dick's book 151 Days describes how public meetings ere prohibited, union meetings broken up and "individual miners and their families hounded in their homes".When they eventually received some financial support from other mining unions overseas, the striking Ohura miners voted unanimously to give it to the wharfies.
By all means celebrate this charming and anachronistic refuge, but recall that it has played its part in national affairs mote recently than the 19th century.

11:04 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fascinating. I have read 151 Days but didn't remember those references. I will look them up and make another post out of them.

12:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a local resident I was pleased to see a serious and positive comment on Ohura. Well done.
If you want more Ohura info check out
& for the next town down the line (well tiny village actually) try
Hope to see lots more arts, music and fun in our area

5:37 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We relocated to NZ after living in Australia for 17 years. By absolute accident we found ourselves in Ohura, fell in love and bought a home there! Love the people, the remoteness and the lifestyle. Our Australian animals (including donkeys & pony!) love it too. Prison is a B&B and with hunting, tramping, ski-ing, fishing and new cycle track as well as golf carts on the old railway line Ohura will bustle again!!!

12:00 pm  
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8:31 pm  

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