The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 3 (July 1, 1932)
Hanmer Spa — The Plain of The Shining Tussock
A thousand feet above sea-level, enclosed in a snow-tipped ring of hills and ranges, the Hanmer Plain, with its warm mineral waters of healing and its pleasant and health-bringing climate, has a high reputation as the Spa of the South Island. It is particularly a resort for city people who seek a quiet and nerve-resting change.
Mani-Rauhea, which means “Plain of the Shining Tussock,” is the old Maori name of Hanmer Plain, set high in the sheep-country where North Canterbury merges into South Marlborough. “Mani” is short for “mania,” a level expanse of land, and “rauhea” is the fine tussock of the highlands inland which has now largely been supplanted by English grasses on the plains. This name (which has not been placed on record by any other writer) was given me by Ngai-Tahu Maoris of the old generation. They had snared weka, or wood-hens, on the plains in the days of their youth, and had helped the white pioneers at sheep-shearing time; they knew also the qualities of the hot springs as waters that soothed weary bodies and soaked out rheumatism. They recalled with admiration the sight which the Hanmer Plain and beyond presented sixty years ago or so when the lone prairie of native grass, with never a tree to break it, was set all quivering and shining by the mountain wind.
Now Hanmer presents a different face. It has farmhouses and great tree plantations, orchards, gardens, and a township where the interest centres in the Government Spa, built at the place where warm mineralised waters bubble up, one of several places in the South Island where hot waters spring to the surface near the main dividing range.
The quantity of mineralized hot water welling from the earth at the Spa is but a trickle as compared with the vast volumes of boiling water pouring out at Rotorua and a hundred other points in the North Island thermal country. The springs of Hanmer, however, are not to be despised even by those who know Rotorua and Taupo; they have their undoubted virtues, and the flow was many years ago considered page 43 sufficient to warrant the permanent upkeep of the Spa as a place of healing. The Government Balneologist, Dr. Wohlman, described the springs in a brochure dealing with this wai-ariki of the South. But of scarcely less value is the Hanmer tonic, which comes in no stinted quantity, the gloriously pure, fresh upland ajr, and with it the nerve-soothing quiet of the place, the restfulness; these make a stay in the Hanmer country a feast of health and solace— a beautiful state of repose, best of all medicines for brain-fagged men and women, broods over all this free country. There are social life and amusements of many kinds at Hanmer, but the maximum benefit can be obtained only by developing a habit of country expeditions and long hours in the breezy open.
Features of the Country-side.
There is a suggestion of dreariness in the landscape which possibly strikes the visitor on his first visit to Hanmer. But this impression vanishes as the stay is prolonged. The grassy plains, the tall cabbage palms that dot the hillsides and the river straths, like great pencils with frayed-out fuzzy heads, the glinting course of the rivers, winding through wide beds of grey shingle, the snow-streaked ranges, all have their graces. The lucid air, the ever-changing play of light and colour, are delightful to the senses.
Visitors to the Spa who are interested in our native flora will have many interesting hours botanising on the hills which surround a large part of the plain, which is rich in sub-alpine plants. These flowers are to be seen in bloom during December and January. At the Spa there are facilities for recreation, to which the salubrious climate adds a zest.
The Weka Pass, a depression in the limestone country which the railway traverses, holds interest for geologists and antiquarians. In some rock shelters or shallow caves here there are primitive paintings done in kokowai, or red ochre, by some ancient tribe of Maoris or their predecessors. There are copies of these in the Museum in Christ-church. Near the Pass is Glenmark, a homestead of some fame, because here was discovered a great collection of bones of the extinct moa bird. The bones were transferred to the Museum by Sir Julius von Haast, the geologist, who was practically the founder of that great institution.page break
“The laughter of children is, and ever was, among the delightful sounds of earth”—De Quincey.
Our Children's Gallery.—(1) Joan Wheeler; (2) Dulcie, Joyce and Elsie Cook; (3) Jean Brugh; (4) Joy and Rae Fahey; (5) June Fahey; (6) Daphne and Irene Greig (twins); (7) Barbara Sellars; (8) Mervyn and Marjory Ingpen; (9) Joyce Jackson; (10) Norman and Ross Hay; (11) Oluen Oliff (all of Upper Hutt, Wellington; (12) Pat Casey (Trentham); (13) Les, Bill and Colin Inglis (Melling, Wellington).