Harihari History - Field Facilities Centre - University of Canterbury - New Zealand
Charles Foweraker

History of the Harihari field station

A brief history of the Charles Foweraker Field Station by Paul Fuller, former Technical Manager, School of Forestry, University of Canterbury.

Mr. John Matson formally opened the Harihari field station on the 16th February 1974 at a ceremony attended by senior members of the University of Canterbury Registry, School of Forestry staff, New Zealand Forest Service personnel, Mrs. Jean Foweraker, and a large contingent of Harihari residents.

The building was designed by Mr. Keith McKenzie of the Christchurch architectural firm of Hall and McKenzie and constructed by RC Jamison & Company. It was dedicated the Charles Foweraker field station as a tribute to, and in recognition of the work of Charles Foweraker, the 1924-34 School of Forestry's first lecturer. Charles Foweraker later became the School's first director, and finally a senior lecturer in Botany at the Canterbury University College.

The need for a permanent field station arose from the types of forestry practices and teaching prevalent during the 1970's. At that time, considerable emphasis was placed on logging, sawmilling and processing of the commercial indigenous species available on the West Coast, such as rimu, kahikatea, red and silver beech.

Harihari was selected because it had four large sawmills and associated processing plants and allowed good access for students to observe general forestry operations. In addition, Harihari and the surrounding areas offered a wide range of environmental examples, including geology, soils, unique landforms, and diverse plant communities, all ideally suited to the practical courses of the School of Forestry and other University departments.

Harihari was also the Southwestland headquarters of the NZ Forest Service (NZFS) who generously provided a building site next to the single men's camp on State Forest Land adjacent to the Forestry HQ. In 1972 an exchange of documents between the University and NZFS informally secured the land although legal ownership has occurred only recently.

Professor Peter McKelvey was the founding Professor of the new School of Forestry (1967-1985) and was able to obtain funding of approximately $25,000 and almost the total cost to construct the building, via a grant from the Timber Workers Housing Pool administered by the NZFS. The Timber Workers Housing Pool was established to provide basic accommodation for forestry workers in bush sites. Capital for the pool was raised from sawmillers through a levy on sawn timber output. In the late 60's the pool accumulated a surplus as the need for on-site worker accommodation declined.

As well as the financial contribution to the School of Forestry, the NZFS also designated the 229 hectare Mystery Hill block located in Ianthe forest as the School's practical training and research activities. It is of note that the Mystery Hill Reserve is now the only remaining example of an undisturbed stand of virgin podocarp/hardwood forest in Ianthe forest. Most of the surrounding forest has been clear felled. The School and many others continue to utilize the Ianthe area as a valuable resource in which to study forest and plant ecology, conservation and regeneration.

Harihari Community

Harihari has gradually changed over recent years following the disestablishment of the New Zealand Forest Service in 1986. Consequently, the forestry related infrastructure and support services were also severely curtailed resulting in high unemployment and in many cases relocation of families to areas offering better employment opportunities. From being a fully employed and socially active community, Harihari has now become a small village reliant mainly on transport and farm servicing businesses.

After almost thirty-two years the field station remains in good heart and holds fond memories for the many students of the School of Forestry and other departments of the University of Canterbury. No forestry class reunion seems complete without a stroll down memory lane where tales of Harihari feature prominently and yarns of best forgotten exploits are told and re-told.