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Know your town

May 15, 2019 May 2019, Regular Features No Comments

Terry Trotman erecting stalls for the Bush Carnival held at Kansas Street.

The highs and lows of Martinborough

Martinborough Fairs

The first Martinborough Fair started out as a Bush Carnival to raise money for the replacement of the Ambulance with great success. Three years later Mr Bill Fetch ran with the idea and so tha Martinborough Fairs put us on the map.

TV series ‘Pukemanu’

Filmed during the 1970s at the Club Hotel renamed the Pukemanu when the series became popular, it became the pace to be seen and to have a drink.  Quoted in a newspaper as ‘ A Must Thing To Do’. Shortly after the series finished the Hotel was demolished and replaced by the Pukemanu Tavern.

Toast Martinborough

Mr Tom Draper and Mr Richard Riddiford made an excellent job , both here in New Zealand and overseas, in making such an event work in a backwater town as Martinborough then was. With the realisation that the wines were so good that a need for food and accommodation became apparent. In keeping the accommodation had to be up to a high standard which started the upgrade of many places , historic and new.  And the food  not just pies and sammies or fish and chips. 


In the 1980s there were no restaurants. Step up Chris and Mary-Ann Hackney to establish the Zodiac Restaurant in the old Post Office building on the Square. September 1987, what a time to open, the time of the share market crash. They set a very high standard forcing all that followed along to do the same. There are now over thirty  food and drink outlets within a kilometre radius of the Square.

The olive industry

The olive industry should also e recognised for  bringing people to the town. Robin Lochie planted the first commercial olives just past the Golf Course in 1992 

A destination

Martinborough is now seen as a destination with a multitude of events adding to the attraction of the wine industry. Fun run , cycle events and cycle tours, walks and a Farmer’s Market.  

The lows

Martinborough of yesteryear was known as ‘The Pitts’ by the folk in the other Wairarapa towns “why would you want to go there, there’s nothing to do?” was the usual answer to any request for information. 

The education Board seemed to think along those lines too. When in 1886 asked for funds  for a septic tank for the school the Department replied ‘ It would be a waste of money when used in such an out of the way place as Martinborough.

Likewise a request for the establishment of a telephone line to the town was met with the answer ‘All that money for probably only one or two calls a month, no.  

Roads and bridges fared no better. The Wairarapa Councils plus the government minsters could not see the benefit of maintain a road from Waihinga to Lower Valley ‘ it is okay as it is’. The same argument was for the request for a bridge – ‘okay’ very much depended on what side of the river you stood on.  Featherston Roads Board minutes 23-10-1880 ‘ Item: bridge. Two pounds sixteen shillings to construct a bridge in Waihinga township. Disallowed as no roads in the town handed over to the Roads Board at that time ‘ ( The bridge in question was on Jellicoe Street at the top of Grey street)

Mate Higginson 

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