Rod steps down

"It's the people who made it special."
“It’s the people who made it special.”

“Drainage can bring out the worst in people. It’s just a fact of life,” says Rod Wise, and he should know.

After more than 40 years serving on the drainage board committee for the region, he attended his last meeting on Friday 28 March.

“Everybody had a different idea on how to drain the peat. Neighbours have stopped talking to each other over a common drain.”

Rod joined the Taupiri Drainage and River Board in 1973. “The drainage board acted as an adviser, facilitator and got on to make sure the drainage worked.”

The Land Drainage Act of 1908 is very simple. “A person downstream from anybody can not interfere with the drainage of a person upstream. Not that everyone believes that.”

When he became involved, the Board was the second largest in New Zealand and had a huge task before it.

“They employed brilliant engineers whose foresight and dedication made the land what it is today. Those early engineers put the drains in exactly the right places, so that even with the settling of the peat, the land still drained.

“Drainage was absolutely crucial to developing the land here. Without we simply wouldn’t have been able to farm.”

Even though it may appear to be flat on top, underneath the mineral soil would be unstable and rolling.

Originally from Masterton, Rod says he was a town boy. “But I always had a love of animals. My father came to Hamilton in 1946, the year it became a Hamilton.”

Drain digging by hand at Ruakura, some time around 1900. Photo: AgResearch
Drain digging by hand at Ruakura, some time around 1900. Photo: AgResearch

He got a job as a technician at Ruakura’s Number 2 dairy and remembers well those early drains, pictured above.

“My first task was to hand-clean the drains, which these guys were digging. Every year we went in with our slashers and pitchforks and cleared them out. No 2 dairy was built on peat.”

Working with Dr CP McMeekan was a wonderful experience. “He was fantastic and did so much for New Zealand farming. He saw I had potential as a practical farmer, and arranged a sharemilking job, this was the start of my farming career.”

While he was at Ruakura, land could be bought for 10 bob an acre.

“I started with a block of land on Woodlands Rd, and inherited a horse with it. The horse helped me find the stock amongst all the rushes, tea tree and scrub. Some of the land had never been developed, it hardly supported anything.”

It was a real challenge for the 30-year-old but he says, “…as many farmers found at the time, you just got stuck in and did it. When I first saw Woodlands Rd in 1966 the road stopped before my farm. It was metal all the way. Law Rd, Middle Rd, Ballard Rd – none of those were there. We worked hard on developing the land.”

(One old dairy farmer known to Number 8 Network used to say when the rabbits moved into the Woodlands Rd district they had to bring their own lunch.)

Everything was all dependent on the drainage, which was key to developing the peat from its raw state.

He got to know one of his neighbours on Woodlands Rd, John Ball. John had been a member of the drainage board but was retiring. Did Rod want to take his place?

He went to the first meeting, which was chaired by Brook Des Forges, and held at Regency House, Ward St, and continued attending for the next four decades.

“We used to meet monthly and have site visits so we knew what we were talking about. I enjoyed it and the reason I stuck with it was due to the people. It’s the people who made it special.”

Over the years he saw many changes, including the drainage being improved and extended throughout the region. Another important change was restructuring.

“In 1989 all the drainage boards in New Zealand went out of existence and we made the choice to go with the Regional Council rather than the District Council, which proved to be the right decision.”

The old drainage boards had done a great job, but as farms developed to a higher standard and the demand for drainage became greater, it had to be better organised and resourced.

These days there is an advisory board, which meets four times a year and it still has local input and a presence in Gordonton Village, where Steve Edwards and Phillip Ecclestone operate from.

“I admire the way they work and keep up to date with everybody.”

But for Rod, it was time to move on. “I felt it would be good to let someone younger come in and make their contribution.”

He says there is a feeling of satisfaction in having been involved in something so important to the region.

“Environmental standards are higher now, as well. You have to get a consent to do work on a waterway, and establish what life is in the streams that you’re about to clean or modify.
“In the old days you just went in and did it. As you get older you realise that these things are very important.”

Share this page:


Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

2 thoughts on “Rod steps down

  • April 24, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    While Rod is correct saying Ballard road was a late comer, the road and the associated drain was on the 1905 Feshfield survey plans released for the sale upon the break up of that Estate. The road and Lake drain were formerly known as LAKE ROAD and LAKE DRAIN but that road name was transferred down to Komakorau to rename the road formerly known as Mill Road. At that time there were a few road name changes, in this part of the Waikato County Council, as it was then known.

    Alan SHARP.

  • May 2, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Alan Sharp adds – After making my 24-4-2014 Number8network comments re the re-naming of Lake Road Gordonton I decided to look into the date of the renaming. First off I grabbed a well used, and torn, AA Map of the Waikato District. It was red rubber stamped with our address and phone details, which allowed me to date the stamping as being after 1975. But confusing me was the maps Land and Survey licensing details which were dated 1958. I was sure that was too early, nearly too early for me to be remembering, and why was the name Gray haunting me, when I had the feeling Puke Road Gordonton, and Kerie Road Kainui, were renamed at the same time that Lake Road Gordonton, became Ballard Road, and Mill Road Komakorau became Lake Road?

    Then I remembered David More’s centennial book on the Waikato County Council. There, towards the end of that book “Between the River and the Hills” was the answer. In 1976 Mr G. B. Burton, the council’s Roading Engineer, was recorded as having reported to council, on the difficulties in obtaining National Roads Board funds to maintain the Council roads, which were being hammered by increasing numbers of heavy transport vehicles, taking short cuts through the County. [including SH1B Taupiri to Cambridge] The book then went on to Mr Burton’s reports re the duplication of Council’s road names, which needed to be addressed.

    “Roads with identical or similar names, sometimes close together, have for long confused strangers to the country. Gray Road is at Gordonton. Another Gray Road (Grays Road on some maps) is eleven kilometres away at Taupiri, and a third is at Te Miro. Davies Road is south of Netherby; Davis Road is east of Te Hoe. Bell (or Bells) Road is north of State Highway 2 at Maramarua, only six kilometres from Bell (or Bells) Road, south of Highway 2, in Franklin County. Station Roads Nos. 1, 2 and 3 and Cross Roads Nos. 1, 2 and 3 abound. Other road names, like Newell, Proctor and Reid, are duplicated in surrounding counties. An attempt to end this confusion was begun in 1976.”

    Therein was my answer. Gray Road Kainui/Taupiri became Kerie Road, and Gray Road Gordonton became Puke Road, along with the above Lake/Ballard and Mill/Lake Road changes happening soon thereafter, in the late 1970’s.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: