Topic: Papahenga (Matua Saltmarsh)

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The following information about the Matua Saltmarsh is from the Tauranga City Council and Historic Places Trust sign erected on the site entitled 'The Matua Saltmarsh: 150 years of change'.

Looking strange? see an archived version here

Maori lose the Saltmarsh When Otumoetai land was confiscated after the battles of Gate Pa and Te Ranga in 1864, S. L. Clarke became the owner of a large area which included the saltmarsh. About 1878 he sold to another absentee landlore, John Tinline, a wealthy South Island runholder. In 1901/1902 the farm was divided up: Lyulph Tollemarche bought the southern portion, "Bentley", and John Snodgrass junior the northern part.

Creating farm land Saltmarshes are easily to develop into dairy farms. Install a one-way flood gate system; wait a couple of years for rain to wash out the salt; sow grass seed; put stock out for grazing. Today very little remains to show where the flood gates once stood.

In the first years of the "Bentley" farm the swampy areas were so full of water that cattle bogged in them had to be levered out, or, if that failed, shot. As this low-lying area was always prone to flooding, Tollemache constructed a pumphouse. His children remembered being sent out after rain to check that the pumphouse light was on, showing that the pump was working. Large numbers of eels were drawn into the pump, which had to be cleaned out from time to time.

In the years between 1911 and 1914 the Waikato Hunt Club's hounds were hunted an area which included the saltmarsh.

The northern side of the marsh, farmed by the Snodgrass family until about 1940, was less modified. In the late 1940s the part of the farm to the south of Levers Road changed hands, and was divided into smaller blocks mainly for horticulture. During the late 1950s the northern part of the former Snodgrass marshland was used as a market garden.

In the mid 1920s a railway track was laid south west through the salt marsh as part of the link to Waihi and Auckland. The foundations of the track were built up, to raise it above the water level and the swampy ground.

The stop bank and drainage channels lowered the water table, but in 1969 a storm destroyed the floodgates, and salt water once more permeated the reclaimed land.

The former saltmarsh is crisscrossed by drainage ditches. The curved line of the railway embankment can be seen running across it. The higher land in Otumoetai was covered with orchards and a scattering of houses.

By 1963 housing subdivisions had begun to spring up around the saltmarsh, replacing farms and orchards.

In 1969 A Kerikari contractor was inspired by the residential housing along canals in Miami to attempt a similar development in New Zealand. He decided that Tauranga, with a fast growing population because of the port expansion, would be a good place for his scheme. The saltmarsh zoning was changed from rual to residential and Kingslea Marinas Ltd began to dig canals for the proposed 248 section development. The fill from 3,500 metres of canals was to be used to raise the low-lying land one metre above sea level.

Saltmarsh saved Luckily for the future of the saltmarsh the Native Forest Action Council and the Tauranga Branch of the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society took a case to the Planning Tribunal in 1970. In a landmark decision all the Council's rezoning was overturned, and all saltmarshes were afforded protection. Sylvania Drive was built extra wide by the developers to conform to Council's instructions about the road leading to the planned development.

After the redevelopment was halted, grazing continued, although returning saltmarsh vegetation gradually replaced the pasture. The drainage channels were last cleared in 1986, the year Tauranga City Council bought 25 hectares of wetlands to preserve them as a nature reserve.

In the early 1900s, as now, children took a short cut across the marsh to get to school. One route led them across the Snodgrass farm to its junction with the Matheson and Tollemache farms, then followed a drain on "Bentley" to the milking shed and Otumoetai Road. Going home it was possible, if the tide was right, to cross over the swamp further to the west past the floodgate and over the mudflats. A deeper channel near Levers farm made a perfect swimming place on a hot summer's day.

Nowadays students at Otumoetai College and Intermediate schools can walk or cycle to school along board walks erected by Tauranga City Council, enjoying the diverse ecosystems of the saltmarsh. Children have been involved in planting flaxes, cabbage trees and other native species to replace invasive plants like pampus grass. Murals were painted on railway underpasses by a local artist and school pupils.

This page was archived at Perma cc February 2017

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Papahenga (Matua Saltmarsh)


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