Akitio is a coastal community in the Tararua District of the lower east coast of the North Island of New Zealand. The Akitio River runs for approximately 35 kilometres in a southeast by northwest direction, leading to the town of Weber, on Route 52, formerly State Highway 52.
Akitio County, Est. 1911, was formerly governed from Pongaroa, located approximately 30 miles (48 km) from Akitio Beach, and the Homesteads of Akitio, Marainanga, and Monaroa Stations.
The area originally (and as recently as 1908) was dominated by two estates, the Marainanga Estate, and the Akitio Estate; of 38,000 acres (150 km2), and 50,000 acres (200 km2) each respectively. The region has been partitioned and sub-divided during the past 100 years to consist of many single family sized blocks; from approximately 600 acres (2.4 km2), up to what remains of the original ‚Akitio‘ Estate Station, which remains the largest at approximately 9,000 acres (36 km2) today.
At its peak, shipping would call once a week to the mouth of the Akitio River, which, before the region’s conversion to farmland (and subsequent erosion), could provide safe anchorage in storms due to the tidal ebb and flow reaching 10 km inland, constantly flushing debris and minimal sediment from the river. Today, the river-mouth can nearly be passed on foot at low slack-water, approximately in front of the old harbour master/postmaster’s cottage site; and the estuary flanking the three historic homesteads is now characterised by mud-flats at low tide.
River rafting on the Akitio River
Akitio Point approximately 1.5 km south of the river mouth, offers local fishermen a protective reef, where paua, crayfish and many types of game fish are easily caught. The Annual Fish Akitio competition draws amateur and professional fisherman from all over the region.
‚The Point‘ was historically home to three historic landing sheds, which held the thousands of bales of wool produced annually by the local sheep stations, and also served to receive fencing wire and other manufactured goods from the passing shipping.
A jetty, the remains of which characterise the low tide landscape, would run out into the surf to lighters that would ferry passengers and valuable cargo to and from the freighters. Wool was loaded onto lighters by bullock train. Several ships have been lost in the Akitio bay, including the Peladies (1,020 tonne) in 1899, parts of which can still be found at low tide or scattered around local historic landmarks. The beach remains a popular attraction for surfers and fishermen alike.
Public (or party line) telephone connections were available at the main homesteads until as late as 1988/89, however private telephone wires between the riverside homesteads and the back block station quarters had been installed for over a century.
Riparian remnants of the old saw mills and the various hydro infrastructure survive to this day.
Dannevirke, the modern service town for Akitio, is located 74 km inland from the coast, and is about an hour by car.