Ohariu Valley Oral History Project
Stretching for 15 kilometres from Makara in the south to Tawa in the north, Ohariu Valley is a rural district on Wellington's urban doorstep. Feeling that the social history of the area deserved to be more widely known, Wellington City Libraries have captured some of the memories of current and former valley dwellers in this oral history project. Click on the links above to hear some of these.
Originally densely covered in native bush, Ohariu Valley was occupied by the Ngati Tama iwi though there were no serious attempts to carve out pa sites or create fortitifcations. The bush however offered refuge to local groups whenever they were in danger of being attacked during periods of inter-tribal warfare and was a rich bird harvesting area. Gradually more permanent cultivations began to appear.
The arrival of European settlers in the 1840s saw the trees logged for timber and the native birds give way to sheep and cattle even though legal title had yet to be determined. In 1847, landholders and chiefs of the Ohariu/Makara district accepted Crown Agent William McCleverty's "grant" of 2282 acres in return for giving up their cultivations on sections which had been occupied by European settlers. However over time these land blocks were leased or sold off and the Maori population gradually diminished. A rural farming community quickly developed due to the close proximity to Wellington City and the guaranteed market for the valley's agricultural produce. As early as 1867 the first school had opened and by 1871 the first church was built and a post office had opened.
1876 saw the end of the Provincial Government system and with that the arrival of Local Government. Originally part of the Porirua "Riding" of the Hutt County Council, community representation helped the area prosper through the provision of better roads which improved access. In the early 20th Century, a public hall was built and was used for dances, wedding receptions, scout meetings and youth socials for generations of local residents. Electricity arrived in 1926 with telephones making their first appearance shortly after.
Recreational pursuits were not ignored with the Ohariu Valley Golf Club and the Wellington branch of the NZ Deer Stalkers Association both establishing themselves during the 1950s. In 1963, the Ohariu Valley Riding Academy began where many young Wellingtonians had their first experience of horse riding and in 1973 the Country Club opened and soon became one of Wellington's premier recreation and entertainment venues for the next decade.
From the 1970s the nature of the valley began to change when it was decided to allow the subdivision of farm land into 10-acre "lifestyle" blocks. This in combination with the end of "can system" of milk collection saw a gradual decline in the number of dairy farms (though sheep farming remained strong) and the arrival of new residents who commuted into Wellington for work. However despite suburban subdivisions creeping over the hill from Johnsonville, Ohariu Valley has continued to retain its strong rural identity.
Wellington City Libraries gives thanks to the all those who have participated in this project. If you are a current or former resident of Ohariu Valley and would like to contribute, please contact us - either via email, or phone 803 8572.
(From the private collection of Nikki Jackson. Please contact us if you are able to assist in attributing copyright or to add further information. To view a larger version of the image and more information, click on a thumbnail.)