Marainanga Station Woolshed

3153 Coast Road, Pongaroa

  • Marainanga Station Woolshed, Pongaroa. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Shellie Evans. Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Date: 21/09/2016.
  • Marainanga Station Woolshed, Pongaroa. Interior.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Katherine Cox. Date: 1/08/2010.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1021 Date Entered 7th April 1983

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 1 DP 10730 (CT WN44D/604), Wellington Land District and the building known as Marainanga Station Woolshed thereon, its associated yards, its fittings and fixtures and the following chattel: historic screw woolpress.

City/District Council

Tararua District

Region

Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 10730 (CT WN44D/604), Wellington Land District

Summaryopen/close

While the Wairarapa was sparsely settled during initial Maori occupation, it has been suggested that by the time European settlement occurred large amounts of the region had already been cleared of the ‘primordial’ forest referred to by Colenso on his later incursion there. The coast, for example, had been almost entirely cleared of forest, and the density of archaeological sites on the coast reflects this. Archaeologist Bruce McFadgen writes that while the recorded occupation at Akitio is sparse, there are middens, ovens, terraces and artifacts at the mouth of the Akitio River. There is also evidence for a small Maori village on the north bank of the Akitio River that Colenso visited in his travels up and down the coast. There is also a recorded archaeological site in the vicinity of the property of the Marainanga Station Woolshed.

While it has been suggested that there are no known records of Europeans in the Wairarapa prior to 1840, colonisation of the area soon occurred as it was recognised that the region was useful for sheep farming. During the 1850s, the development of large scale pastoralism took place in the region. The Wairarapa and Tararua regions were some of the first areas extensively settled for farming purposes, and farming is an integral part of both the history and current life of the region.

Sheep farming for wool and later meat is the agricultural industry for which New Zealand is best known, and it follows therefore that woolsheds are amongst New Zealand’s most characteristic farm buildings. It was here that sheep were sorted and held prior to shearing. Shearing and the sorting, baling and storage of wool were all carried out in woolsheds. Woolsheds typically follow the form that had already gained popularity in Australia, with three basic areas: the pens for hold-ing sheep, the shearing board where the sheep were shorn and the wool room where fleeces were sorted, classed and pressed into bales.

The Marainanga Station Woolshed was designed and built in 1883. Thornton states that the farm Moanaroa was formed from the subdivision of the early Marainanga Station. The station had its beginnings when it was under control of Dr Issac Featherston; it was then taken over by the Johnston brothers who sublet it to James Armstrong of Akitio North. At that time Moanaroa was known as Akitio South. The Station was taken over by Handyside, Roberts and Company, and it was under the control of this company when the woolshed was built in 1883. The Marainanga Station was subdivided in 1908 from a size of 36,000 acres, and is noted for the Angus stud that was established there. The sale of the Marainanga Station led to the development of the stud at Moanaroa Station, where the breed has been farmed for over 100 years.

Woolsheds vary in size from relatively small structures to those with as many as 48 stands. Marainanga is therefore a midsized woolshed, with 12 stands and the space for 1,500 sheep. At its peak production when the station attached to the woolshed was 36,000 acres, 28,000 sheep would have passed through and been shorn in this shed. Bullocks were used to transport wool on to ships through the surf at Akitio beach. Boats would land at the beach up to twice a week throughout the year, sometimes loading up to 7,000 bales of wool from the surrounding district. The last time that this occurred at Marainanga Station Woolshed was in 1943-44. In 1899 the ship Pleiades ran aground at Akitio near the station, and it is noted that ‘the men were treated most hospitably by a Mr. Handyside.’ In 1900 it was dismantled as the cost of refloating it was too high, and some of the material from the ship was stored at the Marainanga Station Woolshed.

Kernohan writes that ‘notwithstanding the work of JS Swan, few, if any woolsheds were designed by architects’. Thornton states while the architect of the Marainanga Woolshed is not known, that there are several woolsheds in the area with a similar design, suggesting that they were designed by the same person. The woolshed at Akitio Station, then known as Akitio North, for example, is very similar to the Marainanga Station Woolshed.

There are aspects of the woolshed which are considered different from the otherwise standard woolshed of the time. There is an area which is partitioned off with round topped pigeon holes in which to keep the shearing blades. It has been suggested that this is unique, as it was generally not expected to have an ornate place for their storage, rather a shelf or dwang by the shearing ports. Thornton also suggests that the screw press in the entrance to the woolshed is one of very few remaining in working condition in the country.

Woolsheds were not simply places for work and gangs of shearers who were employed over seasons would live in the area surrounding them, forming an important part of the social history of an area. These people may have left no more permanent mark other than, for example, the graffiti in Marainanga Station Woolshed made by the workers employed there over the shearing season.

Marainanga Station Woolshed is significant as being representative of the tenacity of individuals living in rural New Zealand, the development of pastoralism, and the success on the East Coast of sheep farming in particular. The Woolshed reflects changes to the vegetation and landscape that has been ongoing since Maori first settled there. The Woolshed therefore reveals important aspects of New Zealand’s pastoral history, for example as an area that was cleared of native bush and gradually changed over time into a farm. The Woolshed is an important part of the history of the area surrounding Akitio and its development, and reflects the success of early settlers in developing farms from small beginnings, and their determination to remain permanently in an inhospitable area. Anecdotes about it have been published in a memoir about the area. Marainanga Station Woolshed has also played a significant part in the employment of individuals for shearing purposes, in a remote area of New Zealand’s east coast. The building is still in use as a woolshed in 2010.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This place was registered under previous legislation and this current assessment was completed based on the criteria under section 23 (1) and (2) of the HPA 1993 but the assessment has not been approved by the Board as part of a formal review process.

Historical Significance or Value:

As a fundamental structure in a large sheep farm, Marainanga Station Woolshed forms an important part of the wider history of the Akitio area. Marainanga Station Woolshed reflects important aspects of New Zealand’s pastoral history, for example as an area that was cleared of native bush and gradually changed over time into a farm. Farming is an integral part of both the history and current life of the region, and Marainanga Station Woolshed is a representative part of this history. The Woolshed reflects the success of early settlers in developing farms and farmland from small beginnings, and the importance of sheep farming in the Tararua region.

This place was registered under previous legislation and this current assessment was completed based on the criteria under section 23 (1) and (2) of the HPA 1993 but the assessment has not been approved by the Board as part of a formal review process.

Aesthetic Significance or Value:

Within its pastoral setting, Marainanga Woolshed provides considerable aesthetic significance. The Woolshed, which is visible from the road, offers a romantic view of late nineteenth century New Zealand pastoralism and is an attractive feature of the farm.

Archaeological Significance or Value:

While McFadgen has suggested that there is not a great number of recorded archaeological evidence in the Akitio region, there are archaeological sites in the vicinity of Marainanga Station Woolshed and the associated property. The site U25/8 is a urupa and therefore important spiritually to tangata whenua. There is also a historic Maori village that was described by William Colenso on the banks of the Akitio River. The wreck of the Pleiades is also near the Woolshed and there is material relating to the ship at the Woolshed.

Architectural Significance or Value:

It is possible that the woolshed was designed by a local architect, and it follows a form which is similar to other early woolsheds in the Akitio area. This is uncommon for woolsheds, which were often designed and built by farmers to a standard format. There are aspects of the woolshed which are considered different from the otherwise standard woolshed of the time. There is an area which is partitioned off with round topped pigeon holes in which to keep the shearing blades. It has been suggested that this is unique, as it was generally not expected to have an ornate place for their storage, rather a shelf or dwang by the shearing ports.

Technological Significance or Value:

There is an extant woolpress which is of interest historically as a significant technological development in the transport of wool bales in early twentieth century New Zealand. It has been suggested this working woolpress is one of the few remaining in New Zealand. Shearing is an activity that has great prominence in rural communities in New Zealand and the woolpress is therefore of historic interest.

This place was registered under previous legislation and this current assessment was completed based on the criteria under section 23 (1) and (2) of the HPA 1993 but the assessment has not been approved by the Board as part of a formal review process.

Social Significance or Value:

Marainanga Station Woolshed has played a part in employment of individuals for shearing purposes over its 120 year history, in a remote area of New Zealand’s East coast. Woolsheds were not simply places for work, and gangs of shearers who were employed over seasons would live in the area surrounding them, forming an important part of the economic and social history of an area. Shearing was an integral part of the lives of many people in the region whose livelihoods depended on the work available at stations during shearing season. These people may have left no permanent mark other than, for example, the graffiti in Marainanga Station Woolshed.

Linksopen/close

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

Exterior and surrounds

The approach to Marainanga Station is along a coastal road, and is found at the mouth of the Akitio River. The Woolshed is visible from the road and forms an impressive aesthetic in its pastoral setting. It is a large wooden structure surrounded by farmland and there are mature trees at the boundary of the paddock surrounding it. It is rectangular shaped with two gables, with five ventilating lanterns giving it a distinctive appearance. Currently painted white, the woolshed is not of the particular rusted red oxide colour which is typical of these structures, giving it an appearance of being well cared for even though it has been in use for over 120 years. Continuing around the structure to the east there is a sheep pen for sheep to be released into after having been shorn. There are currently six of runs for the sheep to be released through on this east wall of the building. There seven sets of windows on this wall, with nine small panes of glass each, which again adds to the distinctive appearance of the building. On the south wall there are three further doors and a curved ventilation window. On the east wall there is a further set of windows as described above, and there is also a set of skylights in the roof that are evident from this aspect.

The Woolshed is a reasonably large structure. The entrance is at the north, and in this front entrance wall there are two sets of windows as described above. There is a small gabled addition to the east of this larger gable which makes up the majority of the main building.

Interior

The interior of the woolshed is constructed of native timber, and there are 12 stands. The ventilation system also allows a large amount of light in to the building. There is a historic screw wool press which is no longer in use in the entrance way to the woolshed, with its modern counterpart alongside. To the left of this are two small wool storage areas. Continuing along this eastern wall of the structure there is an area which is evident from the exterior of the building as being the small second gable, used as a storage area. On the eastern wall there are the areas for shearing with six stands currently in use. In the centre of the building there are pens for holding sheep with slatted floors to keep the area clean.

There is an area which is partitioned off with round topped pigeon holes in which to keep the shearing blades to the right of the shearing area. There is also a small pigeon hole for the shears to be passed through to someone who is inside the partitioned off area in the middle of the woolshed.

There is graffiti on the walls, adding to the patina of the building. There are stencils for writing the name of the station on the bales and other ephemera related to shearing. There are shears in place on the east wall.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1883 -
Woolshed designed and built

Completion Date

16th December 2010

Report Written By

Katharine Cox

Information Sources

Bagnall, 1976

A. G. Bagnall, Wairarapa; An Historical Excursion, Trentham, 1976

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1908

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 6, Taranaki, Hawke's Bay, Wellington, 1908

McLintock, 1966

An Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Government Printer, Wellington, 1966

Newton, 1969

P. Newton, Big Country of the North Island, A. H. & A. W. Reed, Wellington, 1969

Salmond, 1986

Jeremy Salmond, Old New Zealand Houses 1800-1940, Auckland, 1986, Reed Methuen

Thornton, 1986

Geoffrey Thornton, The New Zealand Heritage of Farm Buildings, Auckland, 1986

Adcock, 1973

I., Adcock, A Goodly Heritage: Eketahuna and districts 100 years, 1873-1973, Eketahuna, 1973

McFadgen, 2003

B, McFadgen, Archaeology of the Wellington Conservancy: Wairarapa. A study in Tectonic Archaeology. Department of Conservation, Wellington, 2003

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Central Region office

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.