On 10th April 1840, a small party of farmers and their families began to make their way across Waitaha (Canterbury Plains) from Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere).
With two teams of bullocks, drays full of supplies and farm equipment, this event is believed to be the first time bullocks walked the land, and that drays and a plough crossed the swamps of Waitaha.
There is no doubt of the trouble the bullocks would have had – making their way across the swamps – their weight alone would have caused them to sink on more than one occasion. They headed toward a group of trees in the distance – a place of shelter, timber, food and hopefully water. That place was known to the Ngai Tahu as Putaringmotu – a place we know as Riccarton Bush.
30 acres of land was soon cleared with wheat and potatoes being planted. 12 months into the adventure, news reached them that their land claim was invalid and hundreds of pounds that had been invested in the project were lost. They moved on.
And so Putaringamotu fell quiet again, that is until William Deans spotted it from the shoulders of Jimmy Robinson Clough and George Duppa a few short months later. A Scottish gentleman farmer with huge dreams, no one can blame William for choosing Putaringamotu over somewhere else. There was a stream, a ready supply of timber and most of all, land that already been broken and ploughed. The rest is history.
For a more in depth look at Riccarton before the Deans, please check out the following link: http://www.peelingbackhistory.co.nz/you-mean-there-was-life-at-riccarton-before-the-deans/
*image courtesy of Puhoi Historical Society – http://puhoihistoricalsociety.org.nz