Topic: Wasteland to Historic Village

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An impossible dream come true. An article appearing in the 1998 "Souvenir Book" subtitled "Take a walk in living history". May contain minor OCR errors.

Looking strange? see an archived version here

In 1973 the area where this Historic Village now stands was a jungle of scrub, blackberry, willow and swamp.

Today it represents the realisation of What many, seeing the original site then, would have regarded as an impossible dream. The land is dry, buildings have risen from what was bog, and artifacts, machinery, relics and priceless family heirlooms have been brought together to create the nucleus of what will eventually be a picture ofthe past on a much greater scale. What stands here today is, in part, the result of a long-term development plan.

The origins of Tauranga’s museums date back as far as 1881.

Prior to the opening of the Tauranga Historic Village/Museum, Tauranga’s museum was sited on Hamilton Street and this was the collection used to provide the seed from which the current living tribute to the past has sprung, and already its popularity has been demonstrated with hundreds of thousands of patrons passing through its gates since opening.

As well as providing a living tribute to the past, the Village has proved to be an exercise in community relations.

Situated in Tauranga city, the Museum is governed by the Tauranga District Council. Additionally, it has brought together many volunteer workers from service clubs and organisations interested in preserving a particular segment of New Zealand’s past. This community involvement is likely to be a continuing condition.

Already the Village has become an important point in the education field, with many school parties gaining practical insight into their nation’s past and, at the other end of the tree of life, the memories of the past are often recalled for visiting groups of senior citizens.

The large collection of photographs of early days in the Tauranga District, the large book collection and the oral history collection of interviews with pioneer identities, provide a comprehensive research resource. For couples beginning married life, the Village Chapel provides an increasingly popular place for them to take vows that begin a life together.

The visitor’s impression today is of a small, thriving, early colonial village with cobblestoned streets framed by period shops. On busy days transport of a bygone era is provided by means of the double decker bus which carries visitors about the Village, giving them a preview of the many attractions to be seen. A London taxi, horse drawn vehicles and our most popular 1877 steam train which circumnavigates the Village/Museum on almost a kilometre of track.

Amongst these attractions are the shops named for businesses of early Tauranga —Gilmore’s General Store, once standing near the City centre, still displays the wares purchased by the pioneer settlers. A chemist shop, bank, haberdashery, printer, clock shop, blacksmiths and a saddler all add to the range of business of this early township.

The old Mount Maunganui Primary School re-lives for many the days of the old school room, and the nearby schoolmaster’s residence, the old style of life of this time.



The Katikati town, with amusing facilities for viewing the prisoners.

The Durham Barracks and the Colonel’s cottage are reminders of Tauranga’s turbulent past and major conflict the Battle of Gate Pa. These two buildings, associated with the early days of the Durham Regiment, have been relocated at the Historic Village.

Further on, the Muir’s Reef Goldmining Settlement, named for a mine established in the near by town of Te Puke, contains a stamper battery, miner’s hut, the undertaker’s, an Assay office.

On the South East end of the Museum’s 14 acres is found the pallisaded Maori Pa (Village). Here whare depicting the various building styles evolving from pre-European times can be examined on the Pa. The Meeting House contains many treasures of local Maori heritage.

Leaving here, the visitor crosses the Village Green, complete with a traditional band rotunda. This area provides an ideal setting for open air concerts, picnics, festivals and many other outdoor events and exhibits.

The Historic Village/Museum is noted for its collection of early agricultural machinery and farm equipment. Several vintage tractors, stationary engines and the rare Jelbart tractor are located at the Western end of the area. These rebuilt engines typify the hours of volunteer labour involved in the restoration work. Towering over this area is the veteran steam tug ‘”Taioma”. Transported to the Museum by road, the tug now serves as a memorial to war time merchant seamen.

The Village railway, which passes around the perimeter of the village and through the bush clad area of the grounds, brings back the nostalgia of steam travel. The 1877 L Class locomotive, lovingly restored by local railway enthusiasts: is a veteran of railway development in New Zealand. This, together with the Village’s 1928 Fowler diesel powered shunt loco, one of the only two remaining in the world, provides regular rides for visitors.

A group of dedicated radio enthusiasts support and staff the veteran Village Radio Station IXT which broadcasts on Sundays and holidays. The station provides the Western Bay of Plenty with a series of popular old time music programmes and items of historical interest.

Tauranga House, a licensed restaurant and reception centre, is a re-creation of the old Star Hotel of early Tauranga.

Groups by prearrangement, will discover the restaurant is reminiscent of the luxurious splendour of the Victorian era.

The popular Village Tearooms offer the visitor a refreshing morning, afternoon tea or lunch.

Reminders of a visit to our Village/Museum may be purchased at the Souvenir Shop as well as a number of other craft related shops including some of the lowest priced hand-made woollen goods in New Zealand.

The 260m2 Exhibition Hall, sited immediately inside the Museum gates, provides an ideal venue for any additions to the many permanent attractions around the Village.

Now this large complex, sited on land reclaimed years ago from a water logged wilderness has reached a value of over $7,000,000.

Much of the development in recent years has been assisted by" the Department of Labour’s employment projects, funding from other contributing local bodies and many thousands of hours of voluntary contribution. With this assistance, and the thousands of visitors who annually “take a walk in living history”, the Historic Village Museum has become the major visitor attraction of the region.

Thank you for visiting our magical living history museum!


 Billie I. Kay


This page was archived at Perma cc March 2017

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Wasteland to Historic Village


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