There was turbulence and hard work in the creation of Tararua District, former mayor Bill Bly said at the Dannevirke celebration of the 30th anniversary of the district.
"To be celebrating 30 years is remarkable. I didn't know if we would get there. We've done really well."
Bly was the second mayor of the Tararua District, serving from 1995 to 1998. Bob Trotter was the first, serving from 1989 to 1995.
"There was a lot of turbulence in abolishing boroughs and counties and the creation of district councils. Bob was the first mayor and he worked hard for the district, but after him it became easier," Bly said.
"Over the years the district has come together to put Tararua on the map and at last everyone is playing a part in that."
He said he had always kept an eye on council business, both good and bad.
"It does worry me that we hear murmurs from time to time that the district needs to get bigger, but we all know that bigger isn't better."
The Dannevirke celebration was one of seven high teas around the district.
Mayor Tracey Collis had hoped all five mayors would attend but Roly Ellis, mayor from 2010 to 2016, was in England and Trotter had a prior appointment.
Maureen Reynolds, mayor from 1998 to 2010, spoke of some of the highs and lows during her term in office.
She said one of her biggest battles was over an alternative route to the Manawatū Gorge.
"In 12 years I never gave up pushing for an alternative highway in case something happened to the gorge, but I was always told it would never happen, but of course it did."
She said one of the most difficult times the district faced was the closure of Oringi freezing works when 466 jobs were lost.
"That was a really hard time for Dannevirke."
But one of her proudest moments was to get the ball rolling on upgrading the district's main towns.
"Dannevirke, Woodville and Eketahuna have all been upgraded and now it's Pahiatua's turn."
She said whether Tararua District would still be around in another 30 years nobody could tell.
Collis thanked past councillors and those who have been recognised with Tararua civic honours for their service and contribution to the district.
"It really hits home when every mayor we have ever had is still with us, living in the district and available to help out whenever asked, such is the care and dedication to the Tararua District. It does not leave when you finish office."
In outlining the history of the district Collis said the name was taken from the two ranges - Tara from the Tararua Ranges and Rua from the Ruahine Ranges.
"This name started one of the first debates - Tararua, Tāmaki Nui a Rua or 40 Mile Bush.
"Those discussions still pop up today and all three names are referenced and acknowledged today."
Collis said it hadn't always been an easy road blending the district, for the people to know one another, to know the towns and what is unique about each of them and their communities.
"We are not all the same."
Collis said the district had seen many changes throughout the 30 years, with the closure of some schools, large businesses and other services.
"But our strong and resilient towns have adapted and innovated from these changes."
She said innovative community-led and council backed projects like the Pongaroa fuel stop and Connect Tararua where the community and the council worked together had been a hugely successful formula.
"We look forward with excitement to the Woodville Art and History project in the old Woodville District Council building and the proposed Kahungunu Atua plan for the old Infracon building - both projects using buildings that form part of our history with council and community involvement."
She said other innovation comes from the council working to gain efficiencies for its ratepayers, such as the Tararua Alliance which will shortly be renewed for a further 10 years.
"In the 30 years we have joined together, we understand each other and how we connect, and we work together as one for the benefit of us all.
"We are seven towns, one district, working proudly together to achieve the best for all that call our place home."
Winners of a photographic competition to mark the district's anniversary were announced at the high tea.
The were: Adults: Hayley Max Dannevirke1, Tony Leggett Woodville and Moira Fergus 2 equal, Ruth Tylee and Tracy Allan-Sherriff 3 equal.
Secondary: Skye Schoeman Dannevirke 1, Nicholas Green Dannevirke 2, Sarah Hynes Dannevirke 3.
Intermediate/primary: Ollie Bowie Dannevirke 1, Elsie Thompson Dannevirke 2, Meredith Yonge Dannevirke 3.