Waiau Valley history sought

Author and historian Lloyd Esler, of Otatara, looks over some Western Southland maps, in particular of the Waiau area.

HISTORIAN and author Lloyd Esler, of Otatara, is researching and writing his 12th book.

This time, his focus is the lower Waiau Valley and Te Waewae Bay areas, including Port Craig.

“There is a very rich history with timber milling, the early runs, Fiordland National Park, limeworks, cement, railways, the Monowai power project, Borland Lodge, railways and roads, gold and platinum mining, shale and coal, bridges, punts and the dredge,” he said.

However, it would be a historical look, and would not have a lot of the Tuatapere story which was well covered elsewhere, he said.

Mr Esler said he was inspired to write the book because there was a gap in the written history of the area.

“It’s mentioned in lots of books, but nothing about the whole Waiau Valley.

“The Waiau River has the second greatest flow of any river in New Zealand, after the Clutha.”

Mr Esler had been collating information about the project since the previous lockdown 18 months ago.

“Although I didn’t have access to the library during lockdown, there had been quite a lot of research in other ways.”

The book would also cover aspects of Maori history including some villages and battle sites.

Mr Esler credited author and researcher James Herries Beattie who had spoken to many people, both Maori and non-Maori, and recorded much of the local history in the late 1800s, writing about 28 books.

Since the region moved to Alert Level 2, he had been out and about at least once a week talking to people in the Waiau catchment, he said.

He was particularly interested in the area below the Mararoa Weir Mavora and Lake Hauroko.

“Lake Hauroko is remote, treacherous, inaccessible, the world sandfly capital bar none.

“It was once looked on as a potential site for a village, farming, and although it is treacherous, it has wonderful scenery.

“It is also regarded as one of the deepest lakes in New Zealand.”

To help with his research, he was keen to hear from anyone who might have information and photographs of activities in the Waiau, such as the plane crash at Monowai, traction engines at work, deer hunting, bulldozers and helicopters on the Borland road. Also Dorothy Sherriff’s alleged poem On Top of the World, cave drawings, opening of the road to Manapouri, Twinlaw tops before the pine trees, whale strandings, Hump Ridge development, overland to Puysegur, sheep on The Longwoods, in the Princess Mountains, Merrivale gold workings and so on.

He hopes the book will be completed and published by mid next year.

  • Anyone with information to help with the book could phone Mr Esler on 021 176 6580 or 03 213 0404.