Waiwaka_Sign.jpg Waiwaka Terrace sign (2012). Mike Gooch. Word on the street image collection.

Waiwaka Terrace is not quite the street it once was.

At the time the road was formed, most probably in the late 19th century, it crossed Mangorei Road and the Hēnui Stream to connect with Leach Street.

However in the early 1980s a key feature of the New Plymouth City's transportation plan was a new northern outlet to speed traffic flow. The development of this expressway necessitated the appropriation of a number of properties at both ends of Waiwaka Terrace. The western part was lost to what is now called Northgate while, at the other end, the street was pushed through to meet up with Paynters Avenue.

Before this part of Strandon was ever developed it seems likely at least some of it was a wetland. Waiwaka is believed to be a colloquial name for Syzygium maire, commonly known as Swamp Maire or Maire Tawake.  Although the name 'Waiwaka' for Swamp Maire doesn't appear in botanical publications there is some evidence it was at one time in common usage in Taranaki.

The Syzygium maire is the only New Zealand species of the Syzgium genus, of which there are more than 1000 species spread throughout Asia, Australasia and Africa.

This New Zealand Syzgium can grow up to 15 metres and is found in the North Island and the inner Marlborough Sounds. It produces white fluffy flowers followed by red fruit which are reputed to be rich in antioxidants and more nutritious than blueberries.  According to Māori folklore its smooth white bark can be used to treat ringworm.

Not only has the Swamp Maire long since disappeared from Strandon, its natural wetland habitat has been significantly affected by the drive for agricultural land. Over 90 per cent of New Zealand's wetland has disappeared and unlike some plants which are able to survive drainage work, the Swamp Maire thrives only in wet places with its unusual clusters of breathing roots above the water.

Like the tree, Waiwaka Terrace has survived the ravages of progress and serves as a pleasant domestic refuge for its residents.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

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