8 October 2008
South Otago Museum
The area surrounding the mouth of the Clutha (Matau-Au) River known as Port Molyneux was historically a site of great importance to Maori as well as the early Pioneers. This location is now being placed under threat by climatic changes and coastal erosion. These events have once again made the evidence of those early peoples topical and indeed tangible by exposing the artefacts of their great stories to the elements.
The heritage of the lower Clutha is a tapestry of stories relating to the ability to negotiate and utilise the Clutha (Matau-Au) River. These Historical fundamentals are reflected in the archives and artefacts housed in the South Otago Museum.
The stories depicted there have a strong foundation in the fertile soils and waterways of the area that sustained early Maori and attracting the interest of Otago’s colonial New Edinburgh project in the 1840’s. The hardy Settlers that initially carved out a life of self sustainability eventually were bolstered by gold rushes North and South of the Lower Clutha. This bonanza created traffic and economic growth that validated trade routes on water and land. Routes still utilised today continuing generations of influence on the industries of meat and dairy.
The impact of this colonisation was felt most dramatically at Port Molyneux when flood waters, hampered by the efforts of man, damaged and drained the harbour in 1878. It is now evident that this dry harbour holds in its sediments significant artefacts of the marine archeology of the Lower Clutha. The tools of the waka builders and the remains of at least seven shipwrecks trapped in a solid snapshot of the river meeting the ocean. A snapshot under threat of being returned completely to the elements.