Huntly lies on the Waikato River between Rangiriri and Ngāruawāhia and was initially a government military encampment. But then coal was discovered and it all changed with several mines and NZ’s only remaining thermal power plant right next to the River. For a long time, the town felt like a post-industrial backwater, but the coal and thermal plant will come to an end and it is changing for the better.
Instead of staying on the Waikato Expressway, take the offramp to Huntly and follow the old State Highway 1 route into the town. There are multiple places to stop along the river, with reflective views of the power plant, especially with sunsets. Cross Tainui Bridge over the Waikato River and turn right onto Harris Road, then continue along this to Te Araroa – the Long Pathway Park, in front of the power station. As you may guess, this is a part of Te Araroa (the walking trail running the length of NZ) which goes alongside much of the northern Waikato River.
In the park, there is a wonderful Māori sculpture with the inscription, in Te Reo Māori and English, that reads “Within this area and near our treasured River this Taonga (treasure) is erected to nurture, care and watch over those that frequently visit this land – Good tidings.”
Next to the park is a series of sculptures, Te Ahurei O Waikato, created by Lyonel Grant. The central figure is thrusting a sacred stake into the land confirming that it belongs to the people of the Waikato and they to it. The water feature represents the life forces of the Waikato River and the canoe shape links the Iwi to their ancestors in the Tainui canoe that brought them from Hawaiki. The other posts represent Waikato hapū (sub-tribes).
There are also some lake walks around Huntly, which we will cover in another blog post.