Valley of boulders draws interest

Wairere, a valley of basalt boulders in the Hokianga, may be one of the Far North’s most remarkable, yet undiscovered rock formations.

Wairere, a valley of basalt boulders in the Hokianga, may be one of the Far North’s most remarkable, yet undiscovered rock formations.

The 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.

The geological formation 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 work by land owners Felix and Rita Schaad.

When they bought the isolated 144 hectares in 1983, after migrating from Switzerland, the land was overgrown, the terrain was rough and they were told they were crazy.

"People warned us that the land was too tough. They made bets in town about how long we would stay," says Felix.

The 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."

For the past 17 years they have worked on their boulder walk. The terrain is so rough that bulldozers could not get through. Not even a wheelbarrow could 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," says Felix.

They erected 15 kilometres of fence and, using Felix''s expertise as a qualified civil engineer, they built 22 bridges.

The couple opened Wairere Boulders to the public in 2002.