Business Rural North Autumn 2021

6 | RURAL PEOPLE » Makowhai Station: Matthews Family Farms Resilience, family PHOTOS: Fred, Ray, Mervyn and Owen Matthews at a scrub cutting camp, 1951. Ernie, Owen, Hilda, Fred, Mervyn and Ray Matthews, 1938. Makowhai Honey Jar. Richard Loader T owards the end of New Zealand’s longest ‘No Exit’ road, an hour northwest from Wanganui, lies Makowhai Station and a diversity of farming enterprises owned and operated by the Matthews family. Straddling the Waitotara River, Makowhai Station now encompasses 8227ha and over the genera- tions has grown to include neighbouring farms Matemate, Raroa, Tarkiri, Kapara and Angiwa. While the family’s official history on the original land goes back to 1919 when Frank Matthews bought it for his sons Leslie, 18 and Harry 16, following the death of two other sons in The Great War, the legacy stretches back to 1893 with the Haddows. Joseph and Sophie Haddow arrived on separate sailing ships from England in 1891 – Joseph early that year to find a new life for his young family – and Sophie at the end of the year after losing their 15-month of daughter to influenza. After spending time in Wanganui as editor of the Wanganui Chronicle Joseph bought his backcountry slice of heaven 52km up the Waitotara River in 1893. Arriving on horseback Joseph set up camp on their 215 acres with Sophie and baby daughter following shortly after by whaleboat propelled by two boatmen with poles. The journey took two days and one night. Whilst working the farm, clearing bush, planting orchards, travelling by horse to teach three days apiece at two schools Joseph managed to find time to complete a law degree by correspondence. Ten children also ensued, the eighth of which, Hilda, was born in 1901. Upon gaining an LLB in 1906 Joseph sold up and the family moved to Auckland, but of course that is not the end of the Haddows’ association with this land, which takes us to where Frank Matthews bought the property. Frank’s sons, Leslie and Harry, cleared scrub, fenced and stocked the 1150-hectare farm and added several buildings. In 1925, Leslie married Joseph and Sophie Had- dow’s daughter, Hilda – bringing the Haddows back into the picture. Leslie and Hilda had five sons – Ernest, Frederick, Owen, Raymond and Mervyn – but two months after inheriting Makowai Station from his father in 1937 Leslie succumbed to meningitis, leaving Hilda and the boys to fend for themselves during those dark years of The Great Depression. Known as Mater and extraordinarily stoic, Hilda was renowned for her tenacity, hard work and fel- lowship, and remained at Makowhai with her young sons. “My father Raymond is 91 now but has very strong memories of living through those ‘sugar bag’ years with his brothers and mother in a place that had no power and no phone,” says Flo Tonks. “All those things were very influential in our family’s history, and their drive to make it work as a family. That philosophy of supporting each other carries through to this day.” After attending Feilding Agricultural High School, the boys managed the station, forming the Mat- thews Brothers Partnership. They tackled bridge building, power plant instal- lation, track cutting, re-fencing, scrub-cutting, floods, financial depression, wartime rations whilst still enjoying social occasions and playing rugby for Ngamatapouri. Pig culling was also significant and between 1944 and 1953 2293 pigs were culled. “There was a shilling subsidy per snout and tail which would get quite smelly before the of Depart- ment of Agriculture representative’s visit! Ammuni- tion was supplied by the mailman in exchange for suckers sold in his butcher shop.” Straddling both sides of the Waitotara River flood- ing has been an issue throughout the farms history. The 1936 flood was significant, taking out bridges that had to be rebuilt while the woolshed was relocated. In the 1950s the brothers installed their own power plant giving the farm its first access to electricity. The partnership was dissolved in 1966 with each brother staying on the farm they were running. Raymond and Mater remained in partnership on Makowhai, progressing its development and expan- sion. Raymond’s son, Henry has continued the family succession after purchasing the property in 1999. “My father had very strong succession ideas and was determined to be off the farm to allow Henry to take the farm in the direction he wanted to take it in,” says Flo. “At 18yrs Henry purchased Raroa in 1992 and the remainder of Makowhai in 1999. Dad OUTLANDER DPS 570 DEFENDER DPS HD8 We will pick up and deliver anywhere in the Wanganui region. Give our friendly team a ring today. 06 345 7300 1A Li ton Street, Gonville, Wanganui available services Other Services Available Please Enquire contact us Simon Fowlie: 027 914 1788 Bruce Fowlie: 027 488 6800 We Look Forward To Working With You. kak contracting Specialising in Round & Conventional Hay & Silage Mowing, Teddering, Swathing, Round Hay Baling, Round Silage Baling, Conventional Hay Baling, Conventional Silage Baling, Conventional Bale Wrapping, Soft Hand Bale Stacking, Tractor & Trailer Carting, Sub Soil Rippers, Power Harrowing, 3 Metre Level Bar, Discing, Ploughing, Roller Drilling, Direct Drilling (Pit Silage, Maize Planting, Harvesting, Big Square Baling, etc) Buying Standing Grass Kak Contracting congratulates the TONKS & MATTHEWS FAMILY FARMS for 100 years on the land