WIGRAM SKIES DEVELOPMENT

Wigram Skies is an exciting community built on the site of the former Wigram Aerodrome. In 1997 Ngāi Tahu Property purchased the former Wigram Aerodrome site with the long term view of subdividing the land and creating a sustainable, masterplanned community.

Over the ensuing years significant research, planning and construction have gone into creating Wigram Skies; underpinned by an awareness of the responsibility Ngāi Tahu Property has to the land, the history of the site and all those that have come before us.

The name Wigram Skies reflects the land's history as a flight school and an air force base, along with Ngāi Tahu Property's vision for the future and the creation of a vibrant community. Wigram's history remains an integral part of the community and is remembered in the Air Force Museum, historic buildings and street names. Rich in heritage and character, Wigram Skies Christchurch development looks forward to an equally bright future; setting the standard for modern, innovative and convenient living.

During its peak in 1943,
Wigram Aerodrome had
2,575 personnel on site most
of whom were training.

Te Heru o Kahukura

The raukura (feather) depicted in the Wigram Skies logo draws reference to the vast Canterbury skyline and the long association Wigram has had with flight. In particular, the various forms within the raukura acknowledge the cultural significance of this area to local Māori heritage by referencing a number of local wāhi tapu and wāhi taonga¹. 

The heru is suggestive of a traditional comb (heru) used to adorn the topknots of high ranking people. The three koru figures represent three significant wāhi tapu associated with the Wigram Skies landscape: Ō-Te-Ika-i-te-Ana, Ō-Tū-Matua and Mānuka. 

Ō-Te-Ika-i-te-Ana was a large village settlement (pā) occupied by Ngāi Tahu right up until the late 19th century and was used by those hunting and gathering local resources (mahinga kai), including kiore (native rats), koreke (NZ quail), tutukiwi (NZ snipe), aruhe (fern root) and tuna (eels).

Ō-Tū-Matua is the spur just above Halswell where an altar (tūahu) was located traditionally and used by the resident tribes to both forecast weather and perform the rituals appropriate to preparing for seasonal mahinga kai activities. Ō-Tū-Matua is also important as it was used in evidence before the 1868 Native Land Court and the 1879 Smith-Nairn Commission as a boundary marker between the 1848 Canterbury Land Purchase and the 1856 Akaroa Land Purchase².

Mānuka is the name of a large Ngāti Māmoe pā that once stood in a strong defensive position at the foot of the hills not far from Tai Tapu. It was eventually stormed and captured by the Ngāi Tahu chief Te Rakiwhakaputa during his rampage of the Whakaraupō / Lyttleton harbour area.

[Cultural information contained in this report is taken from the Cultural Values Report prepared for the South West Area Management plan.]

¹ Wāhi tapu and wāhi taonga are sites of cultural significance to local Mana Whenua. Wāhi tapu relate to places that are imbued with an element of sacredness or restriction due to a certain event or situation. Wāhi taonga are areas that are not necessarily sacred or restricted but are significant all the same given their fundamental relationships with key aspects of Māori culture (e.g. stories associated with the origins of life). Mana whenua are those recognised as holding the traditional rights and responsibilities within a particular takiwā (area) to manage and govern natural resources for the long term benefit of their people. The Wigram Skies development falls within the takiwā and customary interests of Ngāī Tūahuriri, which centres on Tuahiwi and extends from the Hurunui River in the north to the Hakatere River in the south, sharing an interest with Arowhenua Rūnanga northwards to Rakaia and thence to the Main Divide. Prior to Ngāi Tūahuriri, this area fell with the domain of Ngāi Tūhaitara and its descendent hapû generically referred to as Ngāti Hine-matua.

² The boundary line in question ran in a direct line from Kaiapoi Pā in North Canterbury to Ō-Tū-Matua, through Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere) and on to the Pā at Taumutu.

 

 

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About Wigram Skies

History

Hundreds of years ago, the wild, wide-open space, now know as Wigram, was home to weka – and a hunting ground for local Ngāi Tahu. It first appears in European records, in 1884, as “Plumpton Park”. Named after a racing park in England, it was a popular venue for gallops, trots, and organised hare hunts. 

In 1901, however, the racing club moved to new grounds in Riccarton and the park reverted to farmland. In 1916, Sir Henry Wigram a successful Christchurch businessman, and mayor, with a passion for aviation, established the Canterbury Aviation Company and land was purchased for what was then called “Sockburn Airport”. The airport was used as the base for a private flying school training pilots for World War I and entry into Britain’s Royal Flying Corps. 

In August 1920, Wigram was the starting point for the first air crossing of Cook Strait by Captain Euan Dickson of the Canterbury Aviation Company. Carrying two passengers and some mail the Avro 504K biplane flew via Kaikoura and Blenheim landing in the Hutt Valley. 

After World War 1 ended, attempts to support the airfield through scheduled public flights proved unsuccessful and in 1923, the Government took over converting Sockburn Airport to a military base and renaming it “Wigram Aerodrome”. Sir Henry Wigram continued his support, gifting land and funds to buy a Gloster Glebe fighter. 

In 1928, Wigram captured the imagination of the nation when Charles Kingsford-Smith made the first Trans-Tasman flight from Sydney to Christchurch. The arrival was broadcast live on radio. A plaque on the landing site still commemorates the event. 

After more than 90 years, the air base closed to air force training in 1995, and in February 2009 to commercial air traffic.

Today, the Air Force Museum of New Zealand (airforcemuseum.co.nz) remembers Wigram’s proud history and the Kiwis who fought for their country. Visit it at 45 Harvard Avenue, open 10am – 5pm daily. Admission is free. Or email info@airforcemuseum.co.nz 

Information and images courtesy of The Christchurch City Library

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