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Secrets of the stream network

This unique map was researched by Tony Garstang and designed by Kirsten Browne, and shows all the streams that run through Masterton. PHOTO/LYNDA FERINGA

Running through Masterton is a network of streams which have been a source of life, shaped history, and acted as a path to some of the town’s hidden treasures, Emily Ireland writes.

“You are standing on one of the secrets of the town,” Tony Garstrang says.

He is the leader of the guided tour of the Waiwaka Stream in Masterton.

It’s cold. There are about 20 of us wrapped up warm on Cornwall St.

We are ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure.

As it turns out, the secret that we are standing on was the Masterton fault line.

“There will be a few surprises on this walk and a lot of things you’ll see today that you probably didn’t realise were right under your nose here in Masterton,” Garstang says.

The group view the first property on the guided tour.  PHOTOS/EMILY IRELAND

The first property we walk through is a grand home and garden – something out of a postcard.

A quaint bridge provides access across the weaving stream, which many years ago had been dammed and used as a lap pool.

It was a popular thing to do in the 1900s, Garstang says.

Following the course of the stream, which ducks underground every so often, we soon find ourselves walking through Wairarapa College.

Sturdy walking boots made jumping a fence and tramping through mud enjoyable.

Luckily, there were no casualties due to the slippery surface.

A spring gushed out of seemingly nowhere and this is where the real juicy stories begin to flow.

The Waiwaka stream at Wairarapa College.

“Those of you who went to Wairarapa College will remember teachers who made beer out of the spring water here,” Wairarapa historian Gareth Winter chimes in.

He was one of several experts on the guided tour, ranging from a Department of Conservation botanist to a hydrogeologist.

He says the temperature of the spring water does not vary at all throughout the year.

This, and other characteristics made it the perfect spot to have a beer.

About the trout

Further downstream, we reach Wairarapa Village, where an advanced trout hatchery operation was in place in the 1880s.

The land was leased by the Wairarapa and Wellington Acclimatisation Society until it was sold to the Catholic Church in 1910.

“Literally hundreds of thousands of little trout were raised here” Winter says.

“Incidentally, mallards were introduced to Wairarapa here as well, and then the council asked the acclimatisation society if they could have mallards to put in the lake.

“They asked for five years and got a pair each year.

“After that, there was a gap of 10 years where no mallards were asked for.

“Then they started writing to the society asking how the hell they could get rid of all the mallards in the lake.”

W Burridge and Son’s Eagle Brewery jug. PHOTO/JANICE DAGG

A good brew

Following the Waiwaka as it dips underneath Chapel and Queen streets, we are soon standing outside Bridgestone Tyre Centre on the corner of Queen and Harlequin streets.

This was the site of W Burridge and Son’s Eagle Brewery, where beer was made even during the Masterton prohibition which lasted from 1909 until 1947.

“We were dry in those years,” Winter says.

“You weren’t allowed to buy a beer, but it was actually okay to make the beer.

“You also weren’t allowed to bottle it.

“So, beer would be made [at the brewery], put into barrels, taken to Carterton and bottled.

“Then people in Masterton would go to Carterton to buy their beer and they would bring the beer back.

“Even more bizarrely, it was illegal to make wine – so you were able to make beer here, but you weren’t allowed to make wine.”

Experts on the tour wear hi-vis vests. Historian Gareth Winter, right, and retired Department of Conservation ranger Garry Foster,

Winter says Harlequin St should have been called Brewery St or Burridge St to reflect the almost 100-year-history of brewing in the area.

The other name of Waiwaka Stream, was Brewery Stream.

The next stream down from the Waiwaka had a cordial and soft drink factory beside it, Winter says.

“What’s worrying is that one summer, [the owner] wasn’t making enough money, and so, he made a swimming pool of the stream as well.”

Upon telling this story to the tour group, noses turn up in disgust.


Winter says most small towns had to have a brewery and a soft drink factory because it was hard to move soft drinks around.

“Obviously, bottled drink couldn’t be shoved on the back of a horse-drawn cart and carried for miles.

“At one stage, Masterton had four soft drink manufacturers and Eketahuna had two.”

Bush gem

After that, we are on the final leg of the journey.

Garland’s Bush in Masterton.

We arrive at Garland’s Bush, a piece of paradise off Hogg Cres.

Retired Department of Conservation ranger and all-round good bloke Garry Foster leads the discussions here.

The bush here seems so separate from the urban centre we had walked through.

There are no sounds of cars, trees are all around, and everyone breathes in the fresh air.

Three giant kahikateas growing closely together dwarf the tour group.

They were “teenagers” – at least 400 years old and possibly up to 1000 years old, Foster says.

“How come these trees weren’t milled?” someone in the group asks.

Kahikitea was not as highly valued as rimu, matai, and totara Foster says.

“Totara is great building material, rimu is great building and furniture material, and matai is great for flooring.

“Kahikatea is softer and would have rotted quicker, so it wasn’t milled as much.”

Foster says Garland’s Bush is a favourite place of his.

“I don’t know about you guys, but I feel something different when I walk from an urban environment into a native forest environment like this.

“When I’m feeling stressed or I’ve got things I want to think about, these are the sorts of places I come to.

Waiwaka Stream walking tour organiser Tony Garstang.

“Nature gives us some awesome things like oxygen – that’s a nice thing to have.

“But it also gives us refuge – a place to go where we can access our deepest thoughts.”

Tony Garstang leads another guided walking tour of the Waiwaka Stream this Sunday.

The tour group is limited to 20 people.

To register for the free walk, email [email protected] or phone 06 377 0032.

The walk will leave 38 Cornwall St at 10am.

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