New Zealand Learning Adventures

English Culture and Volcano Zone
Great Canterbury Plains Highway

Rivers made the plains

About 200 km in length this highway crosses New Zealand's largest flat area, linking farms rivers communities and port cities.

When the first people arrived to live on the plains they were barren desert lands. Early travelers  easily perished as there was little water between the rivers and rainfall is minimal. Winds and temperatures can at times be harsh.

For the last 30,000 years these vast,
still growing, plains have been building from the eroding material of the uplifting Southern Alps.

Recent human endeavour has changed the land with the extensive use of irrigation and modern farming management activities making the vast area produce wheat, barley, oats, fruit, beef, sheep and dairy farms.  Traffic volume on the highway has been growing steadily since the first modern travelers and settlers arrived in the 1850s.   

Farm Service Towns
The highway links delightful farming service communities including Temuka or Geraldine, Ashburton, Hinds, Burnham (military town), Dunsandel, Rakaia, Rolleston and Winchester. All of these communities are settled on the junction of rivers (or streams) and the Highway.  They lure us with friendly shops, and cafes.

The Plains Highway is the only one accompanied by the Main Trunk Railway Line that links the entire north and south area of New Zealand.

Three large braded rivers Rangatata, Rakia, and Waimakariri carry the vast volumes of rain water from the Southern Alps.  These rivers play a critical roll in building the plains and irrigating the farms. They are also popular for jet boating and salmon fishing. 

New Zealand's longest bridge carries the highway over the Rakia River. 

We can examine land cycles, with formation and demise using tectonic forces, uplifting mountains, planetary air movements. flowing rivers and ocean currents.

Vast aquifers beneath are being used and managed for drinking water and farm irrigation.

Groups can learn how farmers transformed these unusable deserts into highly productive dairy farmlands despite a rainfall of just 500mm.
Farm studies
Interested groups discover how the plains provide food for both local consumption and export trade.

We can look at the ways human innovation converted these, once desert lands, into highly productive farms* and their settlements*. 

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