THE VALLEY OF THE BOULDERS: Felix and Rita Schaad on one of the
22 bridges they have constructed to provide a walkway up their
Destinctive flutings on the rock surfaces are unusual for basalt
The Bay Chronicle
08 August 2003 (By Keri Molloy)
Valley of boulders draws interest from scientists
a valley of basalt boulders in the Hokianga, may be one of the Far North's most
remarkable eco-tourism assets but nobody seems to know about it - yet.
erosional remnants of a basalt flow date back an estimated 2.8 million years and
is said to be the best geological formation of its kind in New Zealand.
geological formation, about 14km from Taheke, is mentioned in scientific papers
going back to the 1940s but it is only recently that the valley has become
easily accessible - after years of backbreaking work by land owners Felix and
they bought the isolated 144 hectares in 1983, the land was overgrown, the
terrain was rough and they were told they were crazy.
recalls: "People warned us that the land was too tough. They made bets in
town about how long we would stay." He smiles: "Some of those people
have left and we've stayed."
Schaads discovered the most outstanding section of the valley by accident.
"We were catching some wild goats for breeding when we came across the
upper valley. We thought we had died and gone to heaven. "
and Rita came to the Far North from Switzerland 20 years ago.
bred goats, Felix taught music at Northland College and Okaihau College. And for
the past seventeen years they worked and worked on their boulder walk. The
terrain is so rough that bulldozers are not an option. Not even a wheelbarrow
can be used so they carried cement in by the bucket: "It was a long job.
Sometimes we didn't even know where we were going with the walkway, we just did
it day by day."
erected 15km of fence and, using Felix's expertise as a qualified civil
engineer, they built 22 bridges.
months ago, they opened Wairere Boulders to the public. Tourists are starting to
trickle in at the rate of about four a day. The Schaads have been told Wairere
is "more interesting than Ayers Rock in Australia".
Rita and Felix at home, a glimpse of the Wairere Boulders behind them.
their website is attracting more widespread interest. Felix: "We have
Universities from different countries linking to our website, declaring it an
Williams of the Geographical Institute in Auckland is one scientist who intends
told the Chronicle: "I've been coming to the Hokianga for 30 years and I
didn't know about it. It certainly appears to be a site of considerable natural
curiosity. To have boulders tumbling down a valley in a jumble like that is most
unusual and rather grand."
Geological and Nuclear Sciences scientist Mike Isaac ackowledges, too, that the
Wairere occurence is 'very unusual' and suggests in a letter to the Schaads:
"...the basalt weathering may make a good fourth year project for a
The Bay Chronicle
15 August 2003 (By
Boulders gather growing interest
Since The Bay Chronicle carried a story about Wairere Boulders (August 8),
property owners Felix and Rita Schaad have been contacted by scientists,
government departments and people as far afield as Australia.
Adding to accumulating information about the valley of basalt boulders,
scientist Roger Evans of Kerikeri says:
"I was unaware of the extent of the feature, though I had seen the large
boulders close to the Horeke/Taheke road in the stream bed there. At the time I
was mainly mapping the in situ formations (the basalt on the Pukewhao
ridge and the sandstones and shales underlying them). The boulders are erosional
remnants. The Pukewhao flow is probably the distal extension of the Marangai
ridge flows (Okaihau). which originated at a high point on the Waiare Road ridge
(just south of Okaihau golf course) or at an eruptive centre near Imms Road,
Okaihau. The flow was erupted on to an elevated landscape of gently sloping
valleys - on a landscape uplifted about 10 million years ago - which has since
been deeply eroded to form the present dissected landscape. The boulders are
remnants of the eroded flows which ran down a broad valley from Okaihau to
Horeke, and which have settled into their present position as erosion has
progressively removed the softer sandstones from under them. Of interest is the
large flat plateau tableland of leached clay soils adjoining the lava flow at
Pukewhao, which has been preserved from erosion by the basalt flows -
effectively a fossil landscape. The sheer number of the fluted boulders is the
Mr Evans says similar occurrences of fluted boulder fields can be seen at the
northern end of Sandys Road Dam near Kerikeri, which cover several acres, and at
Takapuwahia highpoint in the Puketi forest which is on a ridge top - neither as
spectacular as the Wairere site.
"The Wairere occurrence is the only extensive one I know in a valley
Wairere Boulders, about 14km from Taheke SH 12 or about 14 km from
Rangiahua SH 1, is thought to be possibly one of the Far North’s most
remarkable eco-tourism assets.
The geological formation has been recognised by scientists in the past but
remained largely unknown until Felix and Rita Schaad developed walkways and
opened up their property to the public 18 months ago.