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Pioneering Reminiscences of Old Wairoa

Lake Waikaremoana

page 34

Lake Waikaremoana.

About thirty-one miles to the north-west of Wairoa, and situated 2,050 feet above sea-level, lies Waikaremoana lake, variously known as "The Sea of the Rippling Waters" and "The Sea of the Dashing Waters," Wairoa's chief scenic asset, and the wonder of all lovers of Nature who have visited it. How shall I ever attempt to describe it in the small space available in this booklet? Surpassing in its beauty, interesting in its historical associations, and altogether lovely are superlatives which fall short of the reality. The lover of Nature might rave over its charms, the painter limn the canvas, the poet sing its praises, and in a life-time neither could do full justice to its many charms, and if Waikare-iti or Little Waikare be thrown into the scale the portrayers task must be intensified. To descend to the prosaic let me say that the area of the lake is twenty-one square miles, and the measurements twelve miles long and six and a quarter miles wide, the drainage at the outlet 772 cubic feet per second, and maximum depth 846 feet. Embosomed in some of the loveliest bush to be seen in New Zealand, a crystal reservoir in the heart of the mountains, the delight of the botanist, the home of the tui and the bell-bird, the delight of the angler and a health resort par excellence, its charms are so many that I can only say Waikaremoana has only to be seen to be loved. The reader who desires to know more about the beauty of this area should consult "The Story of Old Wairoa," chapter VII, page 116.

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I have before me a very interesting account of the geology of Waikaremoana by Mr. M. Ongley, a member of the State Geological Survey, and lest it may be lost to many readers I am tempted to include it here, especially as it contains something very like a prophecy, based on this gentleman's observations. Mr. Ongley says:

"Waikaremoana was formed by a river flowing close under Te Rahui cliff, cutting down its bed sufficiently to weaken the ridge on its left bank so that on some shock, perhaps an earthquake, the left bank slid down and across the river and came to rest against the right bank, leaving a low place near the back of the slip. The river so dammed back swelled into the lake till it escaped over the low place in the rim and through the fissured sandstone near the back of the slip. As the nearby country is similar, it is to be expected it should show other similar slip-dammed lakes, and, if we are fortunate, we should find the streams eroding in such a way as will later produce one of these lakes."

Mr. Elsdon Best's opinion was that the lake was formed long before New Zealand was settled by man. The first geological report of the area was by Mr. S. Percy Smith in 1878, the opinion expressed being that Waikaremoana and other smaller lakes occupied true rock bottoms and were not scooped out by glaciers, no theory being then advanced, but twenty-one years later the same investigator expressed the opinion that the lake was formed by a vast landslip on the east of the outlet which closed up a valley. Further geological reports concurred with this view, and ridiculed the idea that the lake was the crater of an extinct page 36volcano, but who can now say what it was when New Zealand was fathoms deep in the ocean.

Another distinguished man, Sir James Hector, in 1892 stated that the lake occupied a depression on the downthrow of a great fault, and there was evidence that the fracture was of recent date. In 1904, Mr. Keith Lucas expressed the opinion that a great slip raised the level of an existing lake. It was also suggested by Professor Marshall, in 1912, that the lake was formed by percolating water dissolving soluble rocks. "The glacial fault, solution, and volcanic theories could be dropped," Mr. Ongley went on, "for there was no evidence of them, or only mistaken evidence already disproven."

In 1927, Marshall amended his opinion, suggesting that the cause might be found in two slips, but Mr. Ongley holds to his original view that only one slip occurred.

"Among similar slip-dammed lakes," the report adds, "can be mentioned Roto-ngaio, at Putere, and Tutira, in Hawkes Bay; and as an example of a stream eroding in a manner favourable to the formation of a lake like Waikaremoana, the Waiau, seven miles south of Waikaremoana, can be cited. There the same sandstone beds as form Panikiri cross the Waiau and form great cuestas on both sides of the river with the escarpments facing upstream and the dip-slopes dipping downstream. Both the main Waiau and its tributary, Mangahopai, flow in parts of their courses along the strike of the bed, the Waiau for half a mile and the Mangahopai for one and a half miles. Both streams are cutting deep and weakening the ridges. The Waiau will undercut the toe of the page 37dip-slope. Some shock will set the ridge moving and it will slip down, choke the channel and impinge against the solid rock across the stream. Most likely the slip material will move farthest. Instances were present on every hand of the gigantic convulsion of Nature which carried away into the valley nearly the whole of a steep hill and cast it into the valley where it piled up against the northern rocky face, damming the Waiau for a time. On this occasion, no doubt, the floor of the valley fell in, further weakening the toe of the hill and thus we get Putere lakes at differing levels where the valley is cut deepest and accordingly the Waiau Valley will be filled in as at Raekahu. The less deeply undercut southern part when unsupported will probably give way and move down, but not so far. The waters shut in behind the slip will swell into a lake like Waikaremoana, drowning all the tributary valleys till it overflows the lowest notch in the rim. This is likely to be at Mangahopai side where the slip will move less, and so a second Waikaremoanalike like will be formed."

I had an opportunity some time ago of inspecting this Waiau valley referred to and the portion of it which lies in the neighbourhood of the Putere lakes, and there is no gainsaying Mr. Ongley's conclusions. Especially in the Waiau gorge or canyon, the evident levels, one overflowing into the other. All this happened about five hundred or perhaps a thousand years ago, and a mighty "'quake" it must have been. So here we have an added interest in the Waikaremoana area and these reflections which seem outside the realm of dispute should still further emphasize my concluding advice: "See Waikaremoana and live." Live to revel in the glorious bush, adorned page 38with the rata and the clematis, the orchid and the mistletoe, the asplenium, called by the Maoris the tresses of Raukatauri, to inbreathe the ozoneladen air and gather increased strength to meet the many onslaughts of Time in the battle of life.

It does not matter to us that Amundsen reached the South Pole first—for no land claims have yet been staked out there—but it does matter a great deal if one man has made two blades of grass grow where before there was but one, and it matters a lot if this man or that man became the pioneer of a great industry. Such was "Joe" Carroll, father of the late Sir James, for he brought the first sheep to Wairoa. The rider of the first horse into Wairoa was Te Wera Hauraki, the protector of the Mahia Natives, and he was acclaimed as a demi-god; but "Joe" Carroll was voted a "Pakeha kino" (a bad hateful Pakeha), for he brought to this district the first mob of sheep, and he only just missed losing his life in consequence. The Maoris held a council on the marae (village green) and they came to the conclusion that once the sheep got a footing on the hills of Wairoa the lands of the Maori would be lost. A leading chief therefore sought him out early one morning armed with a twice-sharpened axe, and but for the fact that he had forsaken his usual home at the Awatere his head must have been cloven by the Maori Nemesis.