For 160 years the town of Waimate North, located about 20kms/13mi inland from the Bay of Islands, has been home to the Bay of Islands Pastoral and Industrial Association Show. It is the oldest show of its kind in New Zealand and is one of those fading rarities of a bygone era.
More than just a county fair or regional exposition the Bay of Islands event brings members of the local community, inhabitants of the greater Northland and generations together for a day-long appreciation of the land and all that it produces. There is the ubiquitous blue-ribbon livestock show, the colorful kids carnival rides and the over-elaborate displays sponsored by tractor and motor bike companies. For those whose idea of fun is more staid, there is an elegant dressage event, gourmet cooking demonstrations, wine, oyster and olive oil tastings, local lamb and sausage, etc. Old and bucolic, the event remains as refined yet earthy as it must have been in the early days when settlers, missionaries, whalers, Maori tribespeople and their families gathered on the showground plain to celebrate and share what they had learned from the land.
The Northland is one among many superabundant New Zealand agricultural zones. Everything seems to flourish here, from the NZ$20 million/US$14.8 million aquaculture industry to the lucrative Gold Kiwi farms, to the handful of wineries that make memorable pinot gris -- which is no small feat.
The Northland is also famous for being the region where the New Zealand we know today, began. In the 1790’s whaling ships from France, England and America began to frequent the shores off the northern end of the island to harvest seal fur and replace broken masts using the local Kauri trees. The tiny Bay of Islands town of Russell became known as the “Hell Hole of the Pacific” given the number of brothels and taverns that popped up following the whaling trade. To counterbalance the seediness there was also a host of Anglican, Wesleyan and Catholic missionaries streaming into the area pitching salvation to the long-established Maori. New settlers began landing with some frequency, mostly Croats, English and Germans bringing with them seeds, vine clippings, livestock and Old World farming practices and animal husbandry.
Among the new arrivals was Anglican minister Samuel Marsden who is credited with planting the first grape vines in New Zealand. John Busby, who later immigrated to Australia, passed through long enough to bottle a vintage, thus fathering the wine industries of two nations.
Here, in the Northland, in 1840 the still-contentious Treaty of Waitangi was hastily drafted, debated and inked in Paihia on 6 February, making New Zealand, among other things, the emerald in the British crown. Drawn up to address Maori rights and to give England international credibility over the French who were coveting the islands for themselves, the singing of the treaty in the Northland ensured that the area would forever be a cultural and historical destination -- which it remains today though more for holiday making than the place one would visit to rekindle a lost age.
Waimate North played an integral role in the birth of the nation, or at least lent a little spiritual support. Here one can still find the Te Waimate Mission, built in 1830, which was the fourth mission in the new land and the location of the first European wedding held in New Zealand. It was around these times that the early Waimate North Shows started to take place. Over the next two decades it steadily grew in popularity and in 1888 the land where the show still takes place was purchased by the show promoters. In 1899 the Bay of Islands Pastoral & Industrial Association was established. More lands around the site were purchased by the Association over the years to create the 3.93 ha/9.83 acre site that exists today.
Adding to the class of the already esteemed show is the Savoring the Source pavilion (well, it’s just a tent actually) where local wineries and food producers show-off their products. The Northland, which from above resembles a green thumb, produces an array of foodstuffs and wines. Available to sample at the festival any year are the region’s famous savory pies, locally pressed olive oils, local honey, oysters, fresh and smoked fishes, roasted lamb and citrus in the form of sweet orange juice or the more grown-up flavor of homemade lemoncello.
We asked the question "What is your favorite New Zealand food?" See the responses.
Some of the food items mentioned in the video were mussel fritters and kina. Watch this You Tube video to see kina being eaten straight from the ocean.
Bay of Islands Pastoral and Industrial Show is held at:
205 Showgrounds Road
Wiamate North, Northland
Lance Mountain, President
PO Box 26
Phone: 09 4078 143