Arriving in Hawera, we made straight for the Muller NZMCA Park.
This was strange for me, as I did my nursing training at Hawera Hospital in the 1960s, when it was still a training hospital, with it’s own Hospital Board, 100 in-patient beds, surgical operating theatres, and surgical, medical, paediatric, geriatric, outpatient, and maternity services all on offer.
Where Muller NZMCA Park is situated is where the old nurses home once was.
Where I lived.
The first time we stayed here I struggled to get my head around it as all the old hospital buildings have gone. Taranaki now has a Base Hospital and services at Hawera are much reduced, though still functioning well I’m told.
Still, it took a bit of getting used to.
Hawera itself is a small South Taranaki town experiencing a bit of a renewal, and it has more to offer than at first might be thought.
The town’s water tower has had money spent on it.
You can once again climb the 215 steps to the top for spectacular 360 degree views.
It’s the stand up (excuse the pun) feature of Hawera, built in 1912-14 after a series of major fires in the town.
Hawera means ‘the burnt place’ and the name was given many years before that, after feuding tribes left the Te Hawera village, as it was known then, burnt to the ground.
Nigel Ogle’s Tawhiti Museum
A visit to this widely-acclaimed museum in Hawera was a must for us as on a previous visit it was closed. It pays to check open hours on their website, as they vary throughout the year.
We had been years ago in it’s very early days, but it’s grown a lot since then.
Situated in what was the old Tawhiti Cheese Factory, what started out as a hobby for former art teacher Nigel Ogle, is now something truly remarkable.
For a start, displays include scale models in the form of a series of dioramas, depicting the history of South Taranaki.
These are simply amazing!
They show two different periods of time ie. the Musket Wars and the Land Wars. These explain…
The Musket Wars…
The Land Wars…
There are many more than I have shown here, but you’ll just have to go and see for yourself.
The Land Wars scenes have been created using the water colour paintings of Lt. Col. E. A. Williams, giving a very unique and accurate record of what took place. As shown below, he carried his paint box and easel to record events and scenes.
As well as these dioramas, there are life-size figures created from moulds cast from real people from the district …
I could have spent a lo-o-ng time in this area, but we had to move on to later times and more life-size characters …
Telling local stories, with local characters, the attention to research and detail is a huge project that shows Nigel Ogle’s passion for art and history.
Also included is Traders and Whalers, the most recent attraction, which takes you by boat on a voyage through a dark bush and rocky coastal environment of the 1820s, and it’s very well done. (No photography allowed)
The Farm Power Hall is next.
This has an extensive collection of vintage farm machinery of which I have photographed only a few pieces, but anyone with an interest in machinery could spend hours in here alone.
John would happily have spent a lot more time.
It was closing time and we had to go.
I haven’t mentioned Mr Badger’s Cafe, or the Tawhiti Bush Railway.
Or Ronald Hugh Morrieson’s attic, where his novels “Came a Hot Friday,” “Predicament” and “The Scarecrow” and others were penned. He lived his whole life in Hawera but never received notoriety until after his death at the age of 50. All his novels have been made into movies since.
On the way back to Muller Park we pass Turuturu Mokai Historic Reserve.
Another change to ponder.
We used to be able to drive in to a large reserve. Wild flowers grew there. The Tawhiti Stream flowed through.
Back then we knew it had some significant history. We could distinguish the mounds and terraces of Māori Pa (villages).
We knew it had played a role in the Land Wars of the 1860s.
But beyond that vague knowledge we didn’t really think about it.
It was a just place we went to now and again.
So what happened here at Turuturu Mokai?
I learnt at Nigel Ogle’s Museum what existed here 400 years ago, built by Ngati Tupaea, a hapu of Ngati Ruanui. This massive Pa was surrounded by five adjacent smaller Pa.
It fell under tapu after an attack by a neighbouring tribe, survivors were taken as slaves, and the Pa was deserted.
(A Tapu lifting ceremony was not conducted until 1938.)
Two hundred years later, in 1866-68 it was the site of a Redoubt for the British Armed Constabulary.
On Sunday July 12 1868 the Redoubt at Turuturu Mokai was attacked by a party of sixty Māori from Te Ngutu O Te Manu, a nearby Pa. A number of Armed Constabulary defenders died and more were injured.
The AC then attacked the Pa at Te Ngutu O Te Manu a few weeks later in retaliation for their defeat, but had to retreat and Major Von Tempsky was killed.
After a number of successes under the leadership of Titokowaru, the Europeans retreated and by the end of 1868 the Redoubt was deserted.
Closed gates and no access meant what remains now, we are unable to see.
I was disappointed.
Change doesn’t always seem like a good thing …
It would be wonderful to see a proper restoration, or at least some information about the history of this significant site.
Our heads are spinning with it all, but it’s been amazing, and well overdue.