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History of Whareroa Guardians Community Trust Inc
The history of Whareroa goes back a long way. Up until 1850 it was used by local Māori for horticulture, most likely for growing kūmara crops. There was also a pā situated on the flat land. In 1850 Alexander MacKay leased it as a farm and later purchased it. In 1941 it was passed to the Wellington Hospital Board as a likely site for a chest hospital.
With the onset of World War 2, the land was acquired for defence purposes. In 1942 the Public Works Department built Camp Mackay on the site for United States Marine Corps training and recreation. Six years later it was taken over by the Lands and Survey Department, which developed it as a recreation and farm education park for public use. By the 1980s, it was providing school trips and open days and had a number of public walking tracks. Management of the land was transferred to Landcorp in 1987, as part of the state owned enterprise restructure that saw Lands and Survey divided into the Department of Conservation and Landcorp. The farm was closed to the public.
In 2003 rumours emerged that Landcorp was planning to sell Whareroa Farm to developers for subdivision, a plan that the local community strongly opposed.
Supported from many quarters, including the Kapiti Coast District Council, the community mounted a campaign to save the land from development. It was felt that the land, which had historical and intrinsic links to Queen Elizabeth Park, was a recreation ‘hub’ with huge tourist and recreation potential for the Kapiti Coast.
In 2005 the Guardians of Whareroa group was formed and extensive lobbying of the Government began. A protest song was recorded and the campaign became a vibrant one engaging the wider community. The campaign did not go unnoticed. The issue of the sale of public land became an election issue, and on 19 August 2005, the Government announced that it had decided to purchase the land from Landcorp for $4.5 million and transfer it to the Department of Conservation.
This was a time of great celebration. On 1 September 2005, the first public picnic at Whareroa, organised by the Guardians of Whareroa, drew a crowd of 300 people.
Since then, the Whareroa Guardians Community Trust, using grants from the Ministry of the Environment and WWF-NZ Habitat Protection Fund, Tindall Foundation, has worked on substantial bush and stream restoration projects involving over 200 volunteers and 30,000 plants. This is ongoing and the community is invited to join in this activity.
In 2010 the Department of Conservation commenced the development of the reserve with parking, an information bay, tracks within the farm and picnic areas. They are working with the Kapiti Mountain Bike Club and horseriders as well as the Trust to develop appropriate recreational opportunities.
In March 2011 the Whareroa Guardians’ volunteers built a significant stone wall at the entrance.
On 30th April 2011 Whareroa Farm was opened for public use as a recreation reserve with a major celebration.
The Department of Conservation and the Trust are working together to develop this wonderful property into a first-class recreation and educational nature facility.