The history of New Zealand is diverse and fraught with challenging ideals. Kurow, in the heart of the central island of this three island nation, is a small but significant contributor to this realms national and international contribution.
First settled by the Waitaha peoples, before known history, it has always been a hub of innovation in both ideas and practice.
The Waitaha were a pacifist people with a matriarchal system of government that, amongst other things, recognised that private ownership of land was destructive to their peaceful and coexistent lifestyle. A people with a long and multicultural history, kept alive by an insulated and highly valued oral history ethos.
Followed by the Maori and European cultures they were almost annihilated by violent and economic colonisation, however their existence and story is alive today, and a proud part of Kurow’s origin story.
The people of the Upper Waitaki, continued to have a significant impact through their cultural progression from pre European times up until today. Both nationally and internationally the most significant of these would have to be the birth of New Zealand’s’ Social Security System. A system that has, arguably, influenced the world.
A pioneer town for early European settlement and agricultural development it was founded on the principle that hard work and benevolence, make for a prosperous and happy community. The dominant social system of the late 1800 and early 1900s was the Forrester Lodge. Unlike other ‘benevolent societies’, this one extended their benign hand to non-members who had fallen on hard times, by no fault of their own. The Social Securities Act 1938 was conceptualised from this system, implemented as a local work scheme at Kurow’s Waitaki Dam Project, adapted for national acceptance, presented for approval to the Labour Party annual conference of 1934, drafted as legislation and eventually passed into law, and all by a succession of Kurow identities.
This story and many other innovations are exclusive to Kurow and found in its Museum.