Turakina Highland Games
Turakina Highland Games new Zealand

Turakina in History

Turakina is a small village in the western Rangitikei district in the southern North Island of NZ.

The Maori explorer Hau named Turakina, along with the other rivers on this coast. On his journey south searching for his wife, he used a felled log to cross the river [from "Turaki" - to fell]. There were originally three Maraes in the area, a stronghold of the Ngati Apa people. Today Tiniwaitara Marae, which has meanings including "A multitude of spears" and "The gathering of people", is situated along the Turakina beach road. The renovated Meeting House, dining hall [built in the 1980's] and Maori Anglican church are used regularly for many Ngati Apa events and also hosts many visiting groups.

The first European settlers arrived from Scotland by ships from 1840's and walked up the beach from Wellington following the land purchase from the Ngati Apa people in May 1849, negotiated by Sir Donald McLean. At its peak in the late 1880's Turakina and the surrounding area boasted 3 churches, St Andrews Presbyterian (the current church was built in 1865), St George's Anglican Church (opened on 15th April 1883) and St Joseph's Catholic church (opened on 20th Sept, 1868). St Joseph's was shifted to be the chapel of St Mathew's school Masterton in the 1980s. The First Christian Church Service in the Rangitikei was conducted in Turakina on Dec 15th 1852 by the Presbyterian Minister Rev. James Duncan. Apart from the state primary school which was established in 1852, there have been several other schools including Turakina Maori Girls College, now sited in Marton.

Early business and industries included a saddler, baker, black smith, milliner, tailor, grocer and butcher, lawyer, brick kiln, dairy factory, racecourse, flourmill, thriving flax industry, orchard and sale yards. There was an illicit whisky distillery, 4 hotels including Ben Nevis [re-built after 2 fires], the Railway [re-built once after fire], the Family, and the Shamrock (burnt down in 1876). The 1st N.Z. health camp was established in 1919 on the Lethbridge farm. The courthouse and jail (which is still standing shifted down the beach road in the 1940s to make room for tennis courts), 2 railway stations and the Annual Highland Games established in 1864. All these made for a prosperous and busy township during coach and wagon days. The arrival of the Railway led to a slow decline in the fortunes of the Turakina Village.

The 1980's saw an upturn in the fortunes of Turakina as new people settled in the village building new houses and renovating and restoring old ones. Today Turakina has many heritage buildings dating from the 1850's and is surrounded by fertile agricultural land. There is an adjacent beach settlement Koitiata [meaning "the rising of the morning sun"]. In February 2004 the Turakina Valley witnessed severe flooding.


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