Himatangi Bush Scientific Reserve

The Himatangi Bush Scientific Reserve is a small part of the Himatangi Block that was allocated during the 1860s to Rangitāne O Manawatū families. Not to confuse the area with activities and settlements at Himatangi (coastline) the reserve area is more closely related to the settlements around Puketotara. 

The closest settlements to Himitangi Bush Scientific Reserve are Puketotara and Te Ahi-aruhe. Te Ahi-aruhe was a kainga situated on the right bank of the Manawatū River a mile below its confluence with the Oroua River. The name means the fire on which fern root was cooked. Puketotara is an area of land between Rangiotu and Himatangi-Bainesse that once belonged to Rangitāne O Manawatū. Today only four families still reside on the ancestral land of their forebears; they are the Te Rangi, Tamati Te Panau, Harerakena Te Awe Awe and Hines families. A reserve of 1,000 acres was set aside at Puektotara when the Rangitikei Manawatū Block was acquired by the Crown despite Rangitāne O Manawatū seeking reserves of up to 5,000 acres in the block.

The main fortified settlement during the nineteenth century in the Himatangi area was known as Puketotara Pa which could accommodate up to 600 warriors and the Pa was often the gathering place for Rangitāne O Manawatū war parties that were on their way to the Rangitikei and Horowhenua areas to do battle. It was also from this Pa and surrounding areas that Maata Momo Te Panau exercised her healing powers.

Traces of the Pa can still be seen in the form of terraces and pits excavated into the side of Puketotara sand ridge which encompasses the Pa area. In the 1840s and 1850s a new settlement was established on the flat land next to the old Pa site. The new settlement included the Church of Te Ahu a Turanga.

Puketotara Pa was one of the Pa sites Donald McLean visited in the 1850s when he was in the Manawatū concerning the purchase of Rangitāne O Manawatū lands on behalf of the Crown. During this time he met with Tutere Tiweta and some sixty other Rangitāne O Manawatū. It was also visited by James Coutts Crawford in 1862 who undertook a geological survey of the Manawatū District on behalf of the Wellington Provincial Council. In 1850 H. Tacy Kemp, who was the Native Secretary to Lieutenant-Governor Eyre in the province of New Munster, did a survey of the Rangitāne O Manawatū population in the Manawatū District. Surveys at the time recorded Puketotara Pa as having 161 people residing within its confines; 109 adults and 52 children. It was also recorded that 400 others were residing in settlements near Puketotara Pa.  By the 1890’s due to flooding, deforestation and roading, people from Puketotara  moved to Rangiotu/and other new settlements in the region.

It is understood the land was transferred from Rangitāne O Manawatū to Pakeha farmers in the early 1900s. During the mid 1900s Himatangi Block Road was established and efforts were made to stabilise the sand dunes, with both exotic forest and existing native forest. In 1985 the site was transferred from the District Council to the Department of Conservation and the scientific reserve was established.

Cultural Landscape

The area between Te Awahou and the Oroua Bridge comprised a succession of sandhills, grass-covered and structured in an east-west configuration indicating the direction of the winds which formed them in the midst of which there were occasional dense patches of manuka, toetoe and tussock.  There were rich areas of soil between sand ridges and swamps fringed with raupo and harakeke.  The swampland had been an important site for the collection of eels and birds by Rangitāne O Manawatū.

Native Land Court evidence refers to the existence of numerous cultivations in the vicinity, a land use which requires fertile and water-drained soil.  The once existing dense forest cover, possibly kahikatea and pukatea, was quickly clear-felled by the earliest Pakeha settlers.   It was such a dense forest cover which, when cleared for the purpose of establishing small cultivations, would provide the necessary fertile soil and shelter to ensure the growth of Rangitāne O Manawatū crops.

Significant Sites

Name

Description

Ahiaruhe Kainga
Puketotara Pa
Whitirea Pa

Name

Description

Puketotara Papa Kainga
Oriko Stream
Te Roto Apa Moana Tuna

As Rangitāne O Manawatū develop their capacity they look forward to the future and the time when they are fully engaged in upholding the principle of kaitiaki over the Himatangi Bush Scientific Reserve.