The importance of heritage
The Auckland Heritage Festival 2022 between 1-16 October, theme is ‘Topography, Taonga and Trailblazers.’ This reminds us that each physical object has an intangible value.
How we arrived in this area, overcame the topography, and made our mark is our heritage. Significance of our heritage could be as unassuming as a tree stump or as conspicuous as a monument.
The first settlements in the area were concentrated near waterfalls which divided fresh water from navigable rivers. Roads were built between landings and industries, such as mills or mines, and later linked as agriculture and land transport evolved.
The Mahurangi, Matakana, and Omaha catchments were considered so rich in resources that there was a suggestion that it could be the nation’s capital. Early surveys demonstrate such optimism. The extensive settlement of Lower Matakana (Sandspit) was laid out and many of the paper roads and undeveloped quarter-acre lots are still visible on survey plans to this day.
Struggles with topography, however, required adaptation. European settlers couldn’t just replicate Northumberland’s Warkworth in this colony. Laying a grid system across steep swales meant that many connecting roads weren’t formed and lots weren’t developed.
Building techniques took into account what materials were locally available and the technical limitations of what needed to be freighted. Designs needed to consider the subtropical climate.
Matakana Valley Road is blessed with a high concentration of heritage buildings between the wharf and Cruickshank’s old timber mill at the foot of the hill. The buildings tell the story of how the town evolved from timber extraction, to boat building, to farming, to food processing, and to being a service town. Social and cultural amenities such as the church, hall, Jubilee Park, and war memorial highlight the community’s early patriotism and cohesion.
The most obvious and raw reminder of our history are our cemeteries. They document drownings, accidents, epidemics, wars, and legacies. Headstones link to street names, businesses, and recognisable surnames in our community.
Records need to be kept so that history isn’t forgotten. Such information are invaluable for decisions made in the future.
It is also important that heritage be accepted in its original context. Modern attitudes form as the result of a series of historical events. Nothing can be learned by removing heritage items due to new-found sensitivities and replacing them with modern interpretations.
Heritage is everywhere we look if we know how to look for it. Those who learn from history can make the most of their future.
The newly-formed Heritage Matakana group are running a series of events, starting with cemetery tours throughout the Auckland Heritage Festival. Visit our Facebook and Instagram pages for updates.