History of Hawea Flat

Hawea Flat Post Office.  Photo: Supplied

Wanaka Sun column by Barbara Chinn - Upper Clutha Historical Records Society

Hawea Flat was originally the main settlement in the area.  It was sited at the northern end of the road from Cromwell, and, before bridges were built, gave access to the punts across the Clutha River; at Newcastle (now called Albert Town) via Newcastle Road, on Camphill Road and at Luggate, (now crossed by the Red Bridge).

Hawea Flat was divided into ‘hundreds’ during the 19th century; ‘hundreds’ being the size of land estimated to support one hundred people.  Unlike the high country runs around and north of the lake (which were under pastoral lease), the hundreds were freeholded to their farmers.

In the early farming days, Hawea Flat was considered to be a grain basket, producing wheat for the Dunedin bakeries, barley for the Dunedin brewery and oats for the local horses.  

Farming changed, to the production of seed, and finally to dairying.

Several of the roads are named after the early European settlers, or their land. For instance, McLennan, Lachlan, Butterfield, Paterson, Loach and Kane Roads (after early families), and Partridge (Partridge peas were grown here) and Camphill Roads (Camphill is the name of Bert Butterfield’s property).

The McLennan family were early settlers, building their house “Blairnhall” – named after the place in Scotland where their third child had been born – on the Hawea Back Road, which was the first link between the settlement and the lake.

The McLennan family donated the triangle of land between Kane and Camphill Roads and St Ninian’s Way to the community.   The school was established here in 1882, and it remains the primary school serving the communities of both Lake Hawea township and Hawea Flat.

The school population swelled during the late 1950s, when the dam was being constructed at the outlet of the lake, then it was reduced for some years, but in the early 21st century the number of pupils swelled again, as more families have come to live in the two communities, and new classrooms have consequently been added.  

Hawea Flat Post Office.  Photo: Supplied

The Post Office was also built in the triangle of land, becoming a playcentre eventually as the mailboxes were moved to the Lake Hawea township store.  St Ninian’s Presbyterian church was built here, opening in 1938.  

An Early Childhood centre was also built here in the early years of the 21st century, and the Hawea hall was built on St Ninian’s Way, opposite the school and playcentre, so this triangle of donated land still contains the central institutions of the community.

St Patrick’s Catholic church, in St Patrick’s Way, was the first church built in the district and was deconsecrated in about 1980, becoming a private dwelling.

During the early days of the settlement three hotels could be visited there, but today none of these remain.  

Windmill corner, where Kane Road takes a sharp turn at the northern entrance to the settlement, now contains a non-working model of the original windmill which pumped water to the local area.

RELATED:  More Wanaka Sun columns by the Upper Clutha Historical Records Society...

History of Lake Hawea township Posted: 17 Sep, 2017 

A look back at Pembroke (Wanaka Township) Posted: 13 Jul, 2017 

Irish street names in Wanaka Posted: 13 Jun, 2017

A River to Cross – Albert Town Posted: 12 Jun, 2017 

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