Topic: Lewis Smart's Leithfield

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A brief summary of Lewis Smart's life in Leithfield and the geographical history of the area and its development.

In 1956 our Banks Peninsula farm was sold. In 1959 together with my wife Mary and young family we purchased the property known as 'Terrace Farm" Leithfield from Mr & Mrs McLean, shortly after added the neighbouring property from Mr & Mrs G James.

This was the first time to my knowledge that the two properties were farmed in conjunction.

In 1960 I was invited on to the Leithfield Domain Board, a committee whose purpose was to supervise the maintenance and care of the Leithfield Beach dwellings and general drainage of the area in question.

When traversing geographically the formative years of Leithfield its terrain is much the same as Canterburys' especially Marshlands, even up to ten years ago sand dunes were apparent on the farmland on the east side of the Main North Road, north of Kings Road. By comparison, south of Kings Road, the region is mainly of a sand dune composition.

The abundantly fertile land of Leithfield Village and its high productive value owing to the catchment basin of the Kowai River, together with runoff area of approximately 800 hectares encompassing Leithfield, must have made it very attractive to early settlers.

When travelling on the Old Leithfield Road the terrace on the west side is known by the Geologists as the Marine Cliff. Groups from Lincoln College study the elevation and composition of the various gravels over years of formation. All this creates a system of drains, the most important being the Government drain together with other side drains have served the district well and give evidence of the skill of our predecessors. Forty years ago these drains were still maintained by hand.

Recently the Hurunui District Council put in place two pipes to control the tidal ebb and flow back into the beach settlement. It is a significant improvement that adds to the value of land and houses.

The Leithfield Domain Board in its time carried out a feasibility study on this drain to control the tidal flow on similar lines.

In 1981 - 83 Government subsidy made public sewer drainage for Leithfield an advanced development, together with the freeholding of the beach sections in 1985 by the Hurunui District Council - an important event.

During fifty yeras of farming in the district, i have seen many changes, cost effective chemical farming, dairy conversions, lifestyle blocks and a large reduction in sheep numbers. However Leithfiled has remained very popular, the following population growth gives evidence of that.


2007      Leithfield Beach                                                                                                                           378

2007      Leithfiled Village                                                                                                                          387

1991      Leithfiled Beach                                                                                                                           222

1991      Leithfiled Village                                                                                                                          234

 In conclusion, the pleasure that the popular Kowai track has given to everyone, is a fine asset to Leithfield.

Feasability Study

While on the subject of the Kowai River, there are several important historic decisions made by the North Canterbury Catchment Board when they carried out a Kowai River protection plan to safeguard both the Leithfield Village and the Leithfield Beach settlement in 1957.

This project was carried out for a period of approximately 2 years by the North Canterbury Catchment Board, followed by public meetings conducted by the Kowai County Council chaired by the late Mr J Blakely on the 4th October, 1960, in both the Leithfield Hall and the Leithfield Beach Hall. It was explained to the Leithfield residents at the time the Government subsidized river protection would safeguard their property, but would carry a slight increase in rates. Unfortunately after much discussion the proposal was defeated by a show of hands.

At the same time the large culvert on Kings Road was sealed off by an iron plate made by McLean Engineering Amberley. The intention was to turn flood water from the Terrace flowing into the reserve, an area of swamp land situated opposite the culvert on the south side of Kings Road. This project when under pressure from flood conditions put extreme pressure on the side of the drain leading into the outfall drain creating a serious threat to Leithfield Beach property, therefore necessitating removal by tractor of the iron plate at 4:00 am to safeguard the beach properties.

In conclusion after years of farming in the Leithfield district observing drains constructed with skill by our predecessors that have served that area so well.

It was unfortunate that the Kowai River protection project carried out by the North Canterbury Catchment Board in 1957 and put to Leithfield residents on the 4th October, 1960 failed. The voting was 18 against, 9 in favour. Many residents declined to vote, however it did confirm the vital importance of the ponding area on the south side of Kings Road. It was described as a safety valve for Leithfield Beach.


The late Mr W Russell, a member of a family who has farmed in the Leithfield district for over a hundred years was strongly opposed to the sealing of the culvert on Kings Road, however the Kowai County Council approved in principle but notified by letter, that if any flooding or damage to beach properties occured, the land owner concerned would be held liable.

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Lewis Smart's Leithfield

City:Leithfield Beach/Leithfield Village