Old Coach Road
The Old Coach Road is the original route between Normandale and Pauatahanui. Maori used part of this route as a war trail long before the time of European settlement.
The route follows what is now Normandale Rd, then the road-sized track through the Waitangirua farm in the Belmont Regional Park and then Belmont Road down to SH 58.
Settlement of the Hutt end began in 1854 when sections were granted uphill from what is now the Normandale overbridge in an area then known as Belmont. There were 17 sections granted 1853-7. The settlers petitioned the provincial government that their sections had not been surveyed, and in 1857 a straight line was then surveyed from Pauatahanui to Korokoro. This provided a baseline for the subdivision of further sections.
A report to the Commissioner of Roads from an expedition by David Galloway and his son, taking two days, to Pauatahanui in 1857 states "In my opinion a good road can be made in continuing the Belmont line into the Horokiwi Road District and also to Pahetenui (sic ) opening up a considerable areas of land of average quality which we have no doubt would be speedily sold and repay any expense that might be incurred in the making..". It also mentions that the expedition passed though extensive stands of "… white pine, rimu, mire (sic), totaro (sic) and moi (sic )…".
In the 1860s there were more sections taken up by soldier settlers who had received Crown grants. Most were apparently used only to fell timber and then cleared for grazing and resale.
The road from Belmont through to Pauatahanui was completed in mid-1872 and from then on became known as Belmont Road. In 1876 it was widened to take wheeled vehicles. It was the most direct northern access route from the Hutt Valley until Haywards Hill road was opened about 1890. A 1904 survey described the route as a "formed dray road", which was up to 12 feet wide on the Hutt side.
Around 1903 the Dominion Government bought the "Belmont Farm" estate of Sir William Fitzherbert for 15,419. This land became the Normandale settlement. The name Normandale, which came from the maiden name of Premier Seddon’s mother-in-law, was established at this time.
Normandale Road was still gravelled in the 1930s but it was gradually sealed up to about 1km from the Belmont Regional Park boundary. The original road bed beyond this is still in place, with a gentle grade and tight bends. This part is now used by hikers and cyclists as part of a network of recreational tracks within the park.
The route is also locally significant. It was an access route to Maori and then opened up the land of the Belmont hills for settlement and farming.
Interestingly, the road was built by manual labour using horses or bullocks and local materials, so it follows lines of contour and least resistance for foot and animal transport. It winds around tight corners, suitable for drays and coaches. In contrast, modern road building uses large earthmoving equipment and materials from elsewhere, and shapes the land to fit the road.
Thus the road enabled families to settle then suburbs to develop. Once connecting the first huts and whares, it now allows us to imagine the bellowing of straining bullocks and the rumble and squeal of dray and coach wheels. It is a lasting physical reminder of those early days.