Hawkes Bay

In search of a beach and an ice-cream

Or Jill Goes Political

A month or so ago, after we left Wimbledon Tavern, we set off in search of a beach and an ice-cream. The sun still had the power to burn and I was clinging to summer like paua to rock. But the wind was from the south and carried with it a hint of the polar blasts that are typical of a South Pacific winter. The weather’s changeable in New Zealand. I could write an entire post about it, probably several.

Being a meteorologist here must be a bit like being a seismologist; the chances of predicting correctly aren’t great. As with the weather we Kiwis talk about earthquakes a lot. In fact, we had a beauty on Monday – but that’s another story, too.

Herbertville is only nine kilometres down the road from Wimbledon. At the turn of the last century this was a bustling community. Originally Wainui (big water), after the river that runs through the settlement, the name was changed when James and Sarah Herbert arrived in 1854. A  genealogy site describes James Herbert as a sheep farmer, publican and townmaker!

These days, even by Hawkes Bay standards, Herbertville is quiet. There’s a golf course, a camping ground, a pub which was closed and for sale, and a few baches (holiday homes); many of those had real estate signs up as well. I think they’d be great for a writing retreat – but you’d need to bring all provisions with you. There wasn’t a shop in sight; and not an ice-cream to be had! But, ah the beach!

Chile is 9000km beyond the horizon

Chile is 9000km beyond the horizon

At the northern end of the beach is Cape Turn Again, named for Captain Cook’s decision in 1769 to turn the Endeavour about. (Captain Cook was the first European explorer to circumnavigate New Zealand.). To the south is Akitio and beyond that Castlepoint. In between there is only the beach, the occasional bach, rocks, sand, sky, surf; and, when the wind blows, tumbleweed.

The view south towards Akitio

The view south towards Akitio

Not many people make it to Herbertville. The drive puts them off. But I love wide open spaces, big skies and big seas. Standing on East Coast beaches with only the ocean between me and Chile never fails to help put the stresses and strains of day to day life in perspective. More than that, it reminds me how lucky I am to be here at this time and in this place.

But change, as the saying goes, is constant. The Herberts have gone;  and so have the Herricks – another well-known family that settled in the district for a time.

There was a large earthquake, 7.4 on the Richter scale, centred off Cape Turn Again in 1904. Chimneys toppled in Wellington, more than 170 km away! It must have been scary – not really knowing what was happening. Not like today, when as soon as we have one, we’re talking about it on Facebook, checking out the Geonet website, and swopping theories about what’s going on and what might happen next. Of course when there’s a “biggy” nowadays some of us are still scared silly! And with good reason. The things are no less dangerous – perhaps more so. There’ve been at least five  size 7 and above earthquakes in the wider Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay region since the 1850s. Possibly three more. I remember reading about at least one huge quake near Porangahau and two more over 7 on the Richter Scale that were located near Napier. All them occurring, I think, some time in the late 19th century. But I couldn’t find any reference to them when I searched on-line this morning.

Now, our region has been targeted for oil exploration. Over the last couple of years there’s been a lot of talk about fracking in Hawkes Bay. People are worried about the impact on the environment and the reports of the process causing earthquakes. A simple search of Worpress brought up Jamie’s Green blog. Take a look at his post , if you’re interested in the issue. He discusses the connection between fracking and earthquakes in Oklahoma and three other neighbouring states.

Tag, the company with the licence for exploration, says they haven’t decided whether fracking will be financially viable here. If it is, what then? This is rock ‘n roll country – and I’m not talking about music! Who knows what my grandchildren (I don’t have any, but hey, I’ve got my eye on the future here!) will find when they come to this place.

Only this morning the local paper carried an article announcing that the government has not included the Hawkes Bay aquifer in the tender for oil exploration. Good sense has prevailed in that respect. For now.

One consolation is that the descendants of Tamatea, the flute playing warrior who mourned his brother on a hillock nearby, have bought Tautane. It’s a sheep station at Herbertville previously owned by the Herricks. If the memorial in the photo above is anything to go by, the family might have found it difficult to part with their land. News of the Ngati Kahungunu purchase did create at bit of a stir at the time. There was a big write-up in the paper. I think the property has gone to good owners – some would say rightful owners. People whose tipuna (ancestors) have lived in the area for more than a thousand years will, I hope, have a very different attitude to stewardship of the land than foreign-owned corporations. Yep, I’m parochial and proud of it!

On the matter of the ice-cream, we found it in Dannevirke, another fifty minute drive away. And, yes, I know, we did gobble up oil to get there. There’s nothing simple about the matter of petroleum and how we use it. By the time we arrived in Dannevirke it was late in the day and the temperature was chilling off. But it wasn’t too cold for that ice-cream. I had a Trumpet with the chocolate lined waffle cone.

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