Care for a special place

By Annette Lambly

Every year thousands of volunteers donate time and energy to preserve and protect the historical Mimiwhangata farm.

A regular visitor to the place is Durlene Jamieson (nee Durrant), who lived on the farm as a child. She loves to spend time with the students who now train on the farm, recounting her past and sharing the passion for keeping Mimiwhangata safe for future generations to enjoy.

In 2012, Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre, which runs a number of agriculture training courses in Northland, joined forces with the Department of Conservation (DoC), which manages the Crown-owned coastal farm. The aim: to assist with the protection of this special place while teaching the skills required for today's agriculture-based careers.

Mimiwhangata is one of DoC's few remaining single-staff properties in New Zealand and its ranger, Chris Moretti, welcomes the visits from the students and tutors. They stay for a week at a time, fencing, spraying, clearing fence lines and likewise helping to maintain the property.

It's a win-win for both organisations and a good example of how the community can work well together.

Kevin Mitchell, a Taratahi tutor, says, "The students absolutely love it out there; they talk about it for months afterwards. There's a unique feeling at Mimiwhangata - it's very special to a lot of people in Northland.

"Real training on real farms is Taratahi's philosophy, and students in Northland are fortunate to have access to several different farms in the area, thereby gaining agricultural experience in different farming environments, which is crucial to successful learning."

Other volunteer groups visit the farm throughout the year, as well as people who come to enjoy the campsite. On average 26,000 people volunteer at and visit the farm each year.

Durlene Jamieson moved to the farm in 1933, when her father was appointed farm manager. The family stayed on the farm for 15 years and Jamieson has many happy memories of growing up at Mimiwhangata.

"In summer I would get up at first light, put my togs on and ride my horse all day, exploring. When I got tired of riding, I got off and walked. I spent hours swimming and fishing. Sometimes I can still see a silhouette of that young girl riding her horse, with her long hair flying out behind her on the hill line."

Reflecting on Jamieson's visit, Moretti says, "It's not unlike my 8-year-old son Ben's childhood on the farm today. One of the special things about the property is that nothing much has changed."

Mimiwhangata steeped in history

Mimiwhangata was once the territory of Ngati Manaia - the ancestors of Ngatiwai, whose rohe now extends from Cape Brett down the east coast as far south as Great Barrier Island.

The iwi of Ngatiwai and Ngapuhi have hereditary ties through the union of the Ngapuhi chieftain Rahiri with Ahuaiti and Whakaruru, descendants of Manaia.

The relationship between the tribes was not always harmonious and Mimiwhangata was the scene of several battles. The site of the battle at Kaituna is considered tapu by the tangata whenua.

Mimiwhangata also has a rich and varied European history, including a short-lived whaling venture at Whale Bay in the 1870s. A Mr Blanchard is recorded as being the first European owner; he sold to Henry Holman in 1838, before the Treaty of Waitangi.

The land was broken in for farming in the 1860s and Mimiwhangata Station put its stamp on the landscape thereafter.

In 1962, NZ Breweries (later to be known as Lion Nathan) purchased Mimiwhangata Station with the intention of building a multimillion dollar tourist resort similar to that of Surfers Paradise. A series of environmental impact studies were commissioned in the early 1970s, including an archaeological survey, and when the natural, historical and archaeological values of Mimiwhangata were revealed, the brewery reconsidered its plans.

In 1975 a charitable trust was formed, the farm park created and the public allowed to return to Mimiwhangata.

In 1986, Lion Nathan began negotiations with the Crown to exchange land in Wellington for Mimiwhangata and the deal was finalised in 1993.

The park contains a rich and diverse archaeological landscape, including 12 recorded pa sites, numerous undefended settlements, evidence of agriculture, extensive midden and several identified urupa (burial sites).

Other points of historic interest include the grave of Joseph Glenny atop Te Rearea Pa. Glenny, who used to captain scows up and down the east coast, died in 1892.

The existing Rangers house, built in 1922, points to the rich farming heritage of Mimiwhangata Station.

- Hamilton News

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