Thursday, January 27, 2011

Apiti Life - A History

Apiti is a Maori word meaning the narrows, or the gorges. At 457 metres above sea level, it's a high uplift of land between two river systems, the Oroua to the west, and the Pohangina to the east, 40 kilometres from Feilding.

Its isolation meant it was settled by Europeans relatively late in New Zealand history; the first settlers arrived in July 1886, having been balloted 100-acre sections by the Feilding Small Farm Association.

The men went in first. In July, mid-winter, with bush frosts on the heights. It wouldn't fully thaw until spring, and the altitude meant summer frosts weren't unusual. They bashed through heavy bush; no roads or bridges. Access was mud-mired tracks created by the surveyors, and up shingle creek beds; all supplies packed in by hard-working horses.

Home wasn't built yet. They lived in the mud, under canvas and sacking, with split ponga logs forming the tent walls. Bunks were made from fern trees and wineberry branches, heaped high with surprisingly comfortable springy dried ponga fronds.

The fire was the heart of the camp. A huge, backburner log – long-lasting hinau or rewarewa was best – kept the fire alive and slowly cooked the wood pigeon or kaka stew while the men chopped and burned bush, trying to clear enough land for a slab whare, a garden, a paddock, a few head of stock.

"The match cleared this land," said Apiti farmer and 125th jubilee organiser Hilton Digby. "The bushfires went from here to Beaconsfield, from the late 1880s for the next 20 or 30 years."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of the first settlers in Apiti was George Stewart Mowat 1849-1916who was from a crofting family in Fetteresso, Stonehaven, Scotland.

He initially settled in Foxton, and by 1890 was settled in Apiti, working as a labourer and living in Hut 5, Block F.

He later farmed on Section 43, Block 2. George did not marry and, spent the last year or two of his life in Tauranga due to ill-health.

Several of George's extended family also emigrated to New Zealand in the early part of the 20the century, and many Mowat descendants are still living there.