Greytown's past seen in its buildings

SELINA POWELL
Last updated 05:00 08/01/2013
greytown
FAIRFAX NZ

RICH IN HISTORY: Greytown's Main Street.

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The drive to Greytown over the winding, narrow road of the Rimutakas may make many travellers queasy, but the trip is idyllic compared to the journey that the town's first residents took.

Settlers travelled by foot to Greytown in 1854 over the Rimutaka Ranges, using several hardy bulls to carry their belongings.

Cottages, shops and a hotel were built within five years of settlement at the town named after Governor George Grey.

At one time, it was the largest settlement in the Wellington region, but Greytown's popularity suffered after the railroad bypassed the town in the 1870s because of flooding concerns.

The distinctive colonial style of Greytown's buildings has its roots in this early lull, with few buildings constructed between the 1920s and 1970s. The Greytown Hotel, Borough Chambers and Hornblow House are among a host of settler buildings that have been preserved and lend a historical air to Greytown's main street.

The town held New Zealand's first Arbor Day in 1890.

It provides a home to several historical trees – including a eucalyptus that was carried from Wellington by wheelbarrow more than a century ago.

Just out of Greytown, the Papawai Marae provided a base for the Maori Parliament at the end of the 19th century, with leaders from around the country travelling to the meeting place to discuss government plans.

Eighteen ancestral statues line the perimeter of Papawai. In an unusual feature of the marae, the monuments face inwards as a symbol of peace and self-determination.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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