Historical Significance or Value
The Eketahuna rugby club was formed in 1889 however it appears that there was no provision for a grandstand in Eketahuna until later in its history, and in fact it may have been the efforts of the local hockey club that led to its construction. Sports and recreation, and the evolution of the associated free time that is required for them is an important part of New Zealand’s history. The Grandstand is constructed from totara, at a time when these resources were becoming less plentiful in the region.
Aesthetic Significance or Value:
The Eketahuna Grandstand is a fine representation of a grandstand erected by a small provincial town in the early twentieth century. Within its semi-rural and sports-ground surrounded setting the Grandstand has aesthetic value. In its simplicity the building is striking and elegant. While there have been several alterations over the years as the club has sought to upgrade facilities, the basic form of the grandstand and its character remain unchanged.
Cultural Significance or Value:
In a small community such as Eketahuna, sport is a means of unifying it, and the Grandstand is representative of the sporting culture of the town. Sports, and in particular rugby, are a part of many modern-day New Zealanders’ identities, and the Grandstand shows the importance of sports in both Eketahuna’s development and current life.
Social Significance or Value:
As it is still in use, the Grandstand is a landmark visited by members of the Eketahuna community every week, to meet and socialise as well as participate in sports, and is central to the lives of those people participating in one of New Zealand’s most representative sports, rugby. The Grandstand has strong community focus in this role and has been kept at its location through the ongoing efforts of local people in the Eketahuna community. Grassroots rugby played at places such as at the Eketahuna Grandstand is what the foundation of the sport rests on. Rugby such as this largely depends on the work of volunteers, and shows the esteem that the sport has in a community. In this role the Grandstand has had a significant function in the social lives of generations of inhabitants of Eketahuna.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The Grandstand has been a central part of the lives of those people involved in sport in Eketahuna since its construction, and weekend sport is an important part of the lives of many New Zealanders. The Grandstand is a therefore a representative aspect of New Zealand’s history and the desire of a small community to have a place to gather together to play and watch sport.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place
The community is heavily involved with this building through the sports that are played there, and its upkeep suggests that there is a level of public esteem for the place. This place has been strongly associated with the Eketahuna community since its beginnings, and is a central focus of those involved in the sporting culture of the town. It has also been the place of local community gatherings, for example during the town’s centenary celebrations.
Summary of Significance or Values
This place was assessed against, and found to qualify under the following criteria: a, e.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.
The discovery and settlement of the Wairarapa and Tararua regions are connected with several prominent figures in New Zealand’s history. Ancestral figures such as Hau-nui-a-nanaia, Kupe, Whatonga, Tara Ika and Toi have all been said to have connections with the region and are responsible for the naming of many of the Wairarapa’s features and places. It has been estimated that Rangitane settled in the region by about the sixteenth century. Marriage links with Rangitane saw a group of Ngati Kahungunu retreat to the Wairarapa in the subsequent century as the result of internal hapu conflict. The two groups cohabitated mostly in the south Wairarapa for a period, but then the Ngati Kahungunu newcomers negotiated several sections of land for themselves. This process was not seamless and instances of conflict continued between the two iwi over the centuries. The next significant period of change in the area was in the early nineteenth century with the progression south of Te Rauparaha and others. This ushered in an era when many different iwi, including Ngati Whatua, Ngati Awa, Ngati Toa, Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Tama, and Ngati Mutunga, made advances into the region and some Ngati Kahungunu hapu withdrew.
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 northern Wairarapa was heavily forested, as opposed to the south with its relatively clear and large grass plains. In particular the forest north of Mount Bruce was dense with rimu, tawa, matai, maire, kahikatea, and rata, and was known as Forty Mile Bush, which Eketahuna is part of, which was within the larger Seventy Mile Bush. Maori referred to this forest as Te Tapere Nui o Whatonga (The great forest of Whatonga) and an abundance of birdlife resided there amongst giant ancient trees, some of which were large enough for groups of people to shelter within their trunks.
European incursion into the Wairarapa and Tararua only began after the New Zealand Company’s Port Nicholson settlement was established. The southern Wairarapa became one of the first extensive tracts of land to be occupied by Europeans, although the Crown titles, negotiated by Donald McLean, were not obtained until 1853. Squatting, and leasing, of land was a major inhibitor to the sale of land in the Wairarapa. The forest acted as a significant barrier and while there was some European settlement in the northern Wairarapa before the late nineteenth century, it was not until roads were extended further, and the railway link to Wellington established, that the area was opened up for substantive settlement. In 1871 the government began especially recruiting Scandinavians to come to New Zealand, because they were seen as particularly useful for work on the early phases of railway and road construction, and were contracted to build roads and fell the forest surrounding the area. Towns such as Eketahuna were initially formed as bases for the railway labourers. Part of the preparation for the railway construction included building a road through the district which had progressed by the mid to late 1870s, as had the initial development of the settlements at Mauriceville and Eketahuna.
Eketahuna means ‘to run aground on a sandbank,’ meaning that canoes could proceed no further down the Makakahi River from this point. The town was briefly renamed Mellemskov (translated as Heart of the Forest) by the Scandanavian settlers who founded the town, before it reverted to its original name. The majority of the first settlers to Eketahuna were Swedish, and arrived on the Forfarshire in Wellington on 4 March 1873. Eketahuna grew quickly and was linked with Wellington when the railway reached the town on the 8th of April 1889, and the town became a borough in 1907.
While fires in the region were commonplace during the turn of the century, in 1908 there was a devastating fire in the district surrounding Eketahuna, caused by the particularly dry summer of 1907-8. Fires began in the middle of January that could have been contained save a heavy wind that developed and fanned fires in the district. Eketahuna was not the only town to suffer, with some reports stating that the whole district was ablaze by the 21st of January. Fires continued until the end of the month. While the fire had a major impact on the built heritage of the towns in the district, it also had a major impact on their futures and economy. Also damaged in the June 24 1942 earthquake, Ekatahuna suffered further in the 2 August aftershock, and it has been reported there was more damage during this quake than in the original. The Eketahuna Grandstand survived these events.
Rugby commenced its role in New Zealand’s history in 1870 when it was first played in Nelson. T.S. Ronaldson introduced the sport to Wairarapa at the latter end of the 1870s, although Iveson has noted: ‘He found the task of starting the game a difficult one, the settlers not taking kindly to the idea of chasing a ball of wind around. They would have nothing to do with it, and the enthusiastic footballer very much had the game to himself for some time.’ The Eketahuna Rugby club was founded in 1889. Bush Union was founded at Pahiatua in 1890 from the Pahiatua, Eketahuna, and Woodville clubs. It was first proposed to call the union the ‘Seventy Mile Bush Union,’ but as the Dannevirke club stayed with the Hawke's Bay union, Bush Union was instead adopted. Rugby, as with other sports, plays a central role in many New Zealanders lives, and grassroots rugby at grounds such as at the Eketahuna Grandstand is what the foundation of the sport rests on. Rugby such as this largely depends on the hard work of volunteers, and shows the esteem that the sport has in a community.
While it has been suggested that the grandstand was built at the time of the establishment of the rugby team, Bagnall writes that around 1913 the recreation ground in Alfredton Road was developed: ‘The commodious grandstand was built through the efforts of the sports bodies subsidised by the Borough Council. The Hockey Club were extremely active in raising funds for the project. Perhaps this explains why the outlook from the stand has a bias towards the hockey field rather than to the southern or rugby football end of the ground.’ Therefore while this report has concentrated on the history of rugby in Eketahuna, other sports such as hockey have also played an important part of the life of the town, and the players of this sport were directly involved in the development of the Grandstand.
Analysis of archive records at Alexander Turnbull Library show that the domain has been in place since 1898. In 1907 a report stated that ‘thistles (Scotch) are at present growing luxuriantly on the proposed sports ground.’ There is no specific mention of the erection of the grandstand in these records, however, although there is one of an inspection of the domain in 1933, and that there had been ‘an appreciable amount of improvements on part of Section 40, on which is established their football ground and grand-stand.’ Similarly, and interestingly as the grandstand was built through local efforts at fundraising, there is little information that can be gleaned about the early existence of the grandstand from searches of early newspapers. On the same domain there had been provision for a cottage hospital which was never built.
Comparison with other grandstands that are registered with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust shows that the Grandstand at Eketahuna is small even when compared with towns with similar relatively low populations, such as at Kumara on the West Coast of the South Island. The structure at Kumara is larger, with provision for approximately twice the number of people than the Eketahuna Grandstand. This may be because the grandstand at Kumara was associated with horseracing. Horseracing was a part of the lives of early inhabitants in the Tararua region, for example at nearby Alfredton, however there is no evidence to suggest that the Grandstand at Eketahuna was ever considered for a racecourse grandstand, and has always been a place for the associated recreation field nearby. Other registered grandstands are associated with A&P showgrounds, or are much larger than that at Eketahuna because they are associated with a much larger town or city such as Carisbrook in Dunedin, or are included within historic areas as part of a park. The Pavilion at Marton is included in a park, for example, and is also relatively small, however it is larger than the Eketahuna Grandstand and quite different in form.
Sport continues to be an integral part of the lives of many of the inhabitants of Eketahuna and the grandstand is still in use. While there have been several alterations over the years as the rugby club has sought to upgrade facilities, the basic form of the grandstand and its character remain unchanged, and has been maintained by the Tararua District Council and the local Eketahuna Rugby Club. In 1973 the Grandstand was a part of the centenary celebrations of the town and children gathered there for a folk-dancing exhibition for members of the town. The Grandstand has a strong public focus in its ongoing use by members of the Eketahuna sporting community and has been kept at its location through the ongoing efforts of local people.
The grandstand is located at the northwestern end of the Eketahuna Domain. The approach to the grandstand is down a long drive which leads to parking that is in front of the sports grounds. There are other associated recreation spaces in the domain, such as a tennis court at the southern end, close to Alfredton Road. The sports grounds border the front of the grandstand and are relatively large. To the left of the grandstand there is a rugby clubroom which was constructed in the 1980s.
This is a utilitarian grandstand with a single level of seating, covered by a gabled canopy supported on timber posts. It is a two storeyed totara structure with a gable over each end. The canopy is decorated with brackets which form a decorative finish along the supporting post of the front of the building by the seating tier. The roof is of corrugated iron. There are four tiers of seating in the stands which comprise the upper storey of the structure, and along the front of these stands is a waist-height fence. There are panes of glass in the southern side of the seating area, while the northern side is of corrugated iron. Two wooden staircases lead to the upper seating area at the north and south sides of the grandstand. To the north of the grandstand there is a modern shed which has been connected to it with a corrugated iron covered walkway. Below the upper stand area are the changing and store rooms which are entered through four different doors, two of which are in the front façade while two are below the gabled ends of the grandstand.
Entering the grandstand from the front façade there is a small room which has original wooden lining, with a concrete floor. There are a further two rooms at the front of the structure which are used as changing rooms, and these three rooms make up the original section of the grandstand, under the seating tiers above. The grandstand has had a block added on the western (back) end of the building for changing rooms, with modern cinder blocks as walls and timber/plastic ceilings. Within this new section on the ground floor are included toilets and showers for the players. To the north of the original section of the grandstand another recent addition also provides for storage, which adjoins the grandstand by an enclosed walkway. This was added to the structure in approximately 2007.
Changing rooms and showers added to back of grandstand
Shed added to northern end of grandstand
Timber, concrete, glass, corrugated iron
15th December 2010
Report Written By
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
D. Kernohan, Wairarapa Buildings: Two centuries of New Zealand architecture, Wairarapa Archive, Masterton, 2003
An Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Government Printer, Wellington, 1966
V.A Burr, Mosquitoes and Sawdust: A history of Scandinavians in early Palmerston North and surrounding districts, Palmerston North, 1995
I., Adcock, A Goodly Heritage: Eketahuna and districts 100 years, 1873-1973, Eketahuna, 1973
B, McFadgen, Archaeology of the Wellington Conservancy: Wairarapa. A study in Tectonic Archaeology. Department of Conservation, Wellington, 2003
Grant, I.F., North of the Waingawa: The Masterton Borough and County Councils, 1877-1989, Masterton, 1995
P. Best, Eketahuna: Stories from small town New Zealand, Publishing Press Ltd, Auckland. 2001
J. Edmonds; Alfredton: the School and the People, Alfredton School Centennial Committee, Alfredton, 1987
B. Iveson, Rugby football in Wellington and Wairarapa 1868 – 1910, Wellington, NZ Times Co, 1911
A fully referenced registration 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.