Temuka, South Canterbury, is a town with a strong sense of heritage, a heritage that saw local farmer Richard Pearse rival the Wright Brothers as the first man to fly (some world aviation authorities still say he was, and try telling a local he wasn't!).
But today, almost a century on, Temuka has other claims to fame, as evidenced by the thousands of holidaymakers who flock to the town each summer.
They're drawn by the host of attractions within easy reach of Temuka, from one of New Zealand's best and prettiest golf courses to some of the finest trout and salmon fishing in the world.
And they're invariably impressed by the warm, out-going friendliness of the local people, a special trait for which Temuka is renowned. They are fiercely proud of their town, and proud that so many people should want to visit it.
The Angler's Paradise
Anglers from all over the world have long been drawn to Temuka by its reputation for fine fishing rivers, especially where the Rangitata and Opihi meet the vast Pacific Ocean.
While the main attraction is the magnificent quinnat salmon, whose spawning run lasts from November through to April, the whole area is also famous for its excellent trout fishing and variety of nearby waterways.
Sea-run trout and salmon are caught in season, while Temuka is also an ideal central base for those wishing to fish the mighty Waitaki river to the south, the Rakaia to the North, or the fabled lakes of the Mackenzie Country and the Waitaki Basin.
The required licences are readily available, as are experienced guides.
History of Temuka
Often photographed by visitors are the picturesque facades of Temuka's main street, which reflect the town's strong sense of history.
The first Pakeha settlers arrived in 1853 to take up farming on the rich and fertile land of the area - a woolshed built the following year at Arowhenua is still in use. It must have been the finest building around at the time, because the famous 'travelling bishop', Bishop Harper, chose to preach from its doorway.
The area once sported fine tracts of indigenous forest, but most of this was tragically destroyed by fire in 1859 and 1863. The rivers that gave Temuka its early reputation as a sporting paradise flooded often, testing the resilience of locals, though they have now been tamed by stopbanks.
Pioneer aviator Richard Pearse, Temuka's most famous son, was a genius by any standards, though it only earned him the nicknames among locals of "Mad Pearse" or "Bamboo Dick", the latter because of his penchant for using bamboo in the construction of his flying machines.
Doubt remains over whether the shy young farmer achieved powered flight just before or just after the Wright Brothers in the first years of the 20th century. But the fact that he did so without any of the technological or financial backing the Wrights enjoyed made his feat all the more remarkable.
Only a few excited neighbours watched in 1903 or 1904 as Pearse taxied his home-built machine into position, opened up the throttle, lifted off, and flew a short distance before landing ungracefully on a gorse hedge.
His aircraft was built on his farm using scrap metal and hand-made tools. It had a steerable tricycle under-carriage, variable pitch airscrew, and a power to weight ratio better than any aircraft designed for years afterwards by planmakers with far greater resources.
Richard Pearse died a recluse in 1953, his genius unrecognised.