Lake Hallow: A Village Pond with Spears, Bones and Pleasure Boats

Waterways once reached from Paekākāriki to Waikanae and it was said the waterways between the sandhills were so numerous that canoes could be paddled between the settlements. 

In 1855 an 8.2 earthquake, centred in the Wairarapa, radically changed these waterways. The area was uplifted between 1 to 1.8 metres, reducing the local rivers of Wainui and Whareroa to just streams, making the waterways less navigable. 

The European settlers then drained more of the swamp areas to create roads and the railway in the 1890s. However, there remained at Paekākāriki a large pond. Early Pākeha settlers named this area of water Lake Hallow. 

In 1895 the pond was drained for Mr Slight, the Paekākāriki Hotelier.  Found were a human skull, bones and a carved steering paddle, evidently part of a Māori war canoe. 

Old settlers at this time were reported to have said the bones probably belonged to a murder victim from the 1840s when whalers and local Maori would drink and fight in the area. The pond was said to have not been dry for 40 years.

View of Paekākāriki from hill above railway. Evening Post 1929, Alexander Turnbull Library (Evening Post Collection) 

An 1888 survey map identifies a ‘Pond with Spears’ at the site of the village. 

Maori place-names of New Zealand (vol 9). Ref: MS-Papers-6061-10. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22915562 

To whom did these spears belong? Was the pond drained on another earlier occasion or could the reference be from when the waterways were drained after the earthquake?  

Moa were hunted in the area over 400 years ago, evidence of this was found in the sand dunes in the area. Could the spears have belonged to the tribes who hunted wetland birds and fished in the area between 1600 to 1700?

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Kāpiti Coast was generally occupied by the Muaupoko and Ngāti Apa peoples

From 1819 a series of migrations to the western coast from Kawhia and Taranaki occurred and brought the groups Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Tama, Te Atiawa, Ngāti Raukawa and several others to different places around the district, including the establishment of the Wainui pa with Ngāti HaumiaAs there is little detail of the spears found they could have belonged to any of the above tangata whenua.     

Local settlers and visitors to the hotel used to entertain themselves by boating on the lake. In this 1902 image the man rowing is either Charles Slight, the hotel’s original publican or Charles Tilley the second hotel publican. The women are unidentified but may be family members.

Boat afloat on site of bowling green at Paekakariki,1902, Alexander Turnbull Library Collection

In 1932 the pond was drained completely to create the village Bowling Green, still in use today.

In 2003 the village was hit by a weather bomb and a deluge of water swept down from the hills above, flooding the low-lying area of the village shops and surrounding streets.

Looking down Robertson Road, Paekākāriki Oct 2003. Image: Christine (Chris) Johnson  

Damage was such that the village was isolated for 3 days, with no way in or out by road or rail. Twenty homes were flooded and evacuated. This image shows the water still present the next day.

Even now the bowling green occasionally floods and the remnants of Lake Hallow emerge.