Trash and treasure in the dump sites of yesteryear

These bottles were found down a well just out of Waitara by Graeme Duckett in the 1980s. Ogles Chemist bottles can be ...
Graeme Duckett

These bottles were found down a well just out of Waitara by Graeme Duckett in the 1980s. Ogles Chemist bottles can be seen at the back.

Pre-European Maori were conscious of pollution and utilised dumping sites for fire stones, bones and shellfish, called middens. Areas were set aside.

Many middens are seen in the sand dunes of coastal Taranaki and on the many inland pa sites. The contents are interesting in that there is nothing to pollute the earth. 

Fish, rat and dog bones are found there, and the common shellfish like paua, pupu, mussell and pipi among others are seen.Its interesting to see the size of the shells from 200 odd years ago.

Olden day dump sites were noticeable for their lack of plastic, Duckett says.
MURRAY WILSON/STUFF

Olden day dump sites were noticeable for their lack of plastic, Duckett says.

Maori had special areas to dump refuse,and also toilet areas were set aside and regarded as tapu.

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With the advent of sealers and whalers on the coastline, whaling stations were set up and the boiling of blubber for oil used in lamps, was the start of pollution as we know it here.

Carcases of whales on the beach and the processing of blubber caused great concern as time went by, as the  putrid  smell drifted across the infant town of New Plymouth.

Many of the early military redoubt sites show how carefree the pioneers were in discarding rubbish. While contractors took away food scraps to sites far from the camps, bottles  and other rubbish on the whole were simply thrown into swamps or over banks nearby.

Settlers tended to dig a trench out the back of their cottages and throw rubbish in and cover them with dirt. Some sites I've seen, like one at Lepperton years ago, the settlers simply stood at the back door and flung everything into the bush. Shocking really, imagine the rats.

Back in the 1980s I dug out a deep well near Waitara. In hindsight it was a stupid thing to do as there could easily have been an old bedstead or a sheet of corrugated iron wedged halfway down and it could have collapsed and taken me to my death.

However as luck would have it, I started to dig the well with refuse from the 1920s being exposed. The deeper I got,the older it was. A bucket at a time was hauled up over me showering me with dirt and flying missiles, but I loved every second of it - it was exciting.

I found some nice Ogles Chemist bottles from early Waitara which I treasure still. As I got deeper the rubbish got older and stoneware and old leather hob nail boots and childrens lace up boots surfaced, also old china and a huge variety of bottles.

The old aerated water marble bottles all had the tops broken as children wanted the marbles to play with. Rare examples of these can be worth $600 or more today.

Of course the thing that stood out to me was there was no plastic.

I'm from the baby boomer generation where there were no plastic bags. I went into a shop the other day and had the tools I bought put in a paper bag, and commented to the assistant how good that was to see again. Long may it continue to creep back in.

We must all do our bit to reduce pollution,our waterways and oceans are full of plastic products, it's a grave concern for the planet. We must all educate our children and grandchildren to ban plastics.  

In this accelerating consumer world we are destroying the very planet were living on with pollution. Sadly we are on the borderline of it being too late. Let's all do our bit.

 - Stuff

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