The history mys­tery

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Last month I wrote about how Evie the dog and I me­an­dered down a truly lovely lo­cal road: Mon­u­ment Rd at Man­gatangi. It’s about an hour’s drive south-east of Auck­land, and you drive past it on the way to the area’s gor­geous hot pools at Mi­randa.

A few days later, I got a let­ter from lo­cal Mur­ray Reid (see( see page 9) who sug­gested check­ing out the lo­cal history group’s web­site: www.man­gatangi.org.nz

I love learn­ing about lo­cal history and I’d al­ways had a few ques­tions that I couldn’t an­swer, like who my road was named for. I as­sumed it was for a lo­cal farmer, and sure enough, this site has a story about a lo­cal farm­ing fam­ily with the same sur­name.

But I found out so much more. When I first bought my block it was bare land and I lived 20 min­utes away on my par­ent’s farm, so ev­ery morn­ing I would drive down to check my an­i­mals, and ev­ery day I would won­der why there were two enor­mous con­crete culvert pipes, per­haps 20m long and 2m high, sit­ting in the pad­dock of a lo­cal farm. One is part of a drain but the other sits above ground and no wa­ter can ever flows through it. To move them you’d need some pretty se­ri­ous hard­ware, like a crane. Or prob­a­bly cranes.

There was another odd thing, a laneway now used by the dairy cows cut through a nearby rocky out­crop about 200m away. Why would some­one go to the huge ex­pense of cut­ting through it when the cows could walk around it, or over it?

The Man­gatangi His­tor­i­cal Group had that mys­tery cov­ered: the pipes and the laneway were go­ing to be a rail­way from Po­keno to Paeroa. It was first pro­posed in the 1900s as a way to cut the long trip to Paeroa (and even­tu­ally Tau­ranga) which in those days went via Hamil­ton, but it wasn’t started un­til 1938. Teams worked un­til the out­break of WW2 but when the war was over, roads were seen to be more im­por­tant and the pro­ject was aban­doned.

But there’s a lit­tle bit of it left if you know where to look.

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