Topic: Foxton 1888-1988 - The Future

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The development of Foxton Borough has been the result of its loca­tion on the Manawatu River, near to the flax swamps of the Moutoa, and on the main highway route from the capital to the rest of the North Island.

Of these three resources only the highway remains as an active influence on the Borough's development today. The Manawatu is still part of the town's life but no longer is the riverbank the focus of economic activity. Not only have all signs of the railway disappeared but the river today is only a trickle of its former self. From the first years of its existence the Whirokino Cut has been steadily strangling the supply of water to The Loop. Despite pleas since the forties for a bigger flow success has only been minimal and the Manawatu River, in relation to the Borough, seems relegated to little more than a habitat for wildlife. It can only be hoped that present day attempts such as those of Dahlson Halidone can see the recreational use of The Loop in the future be re-established along the lines of yesteryear.

The extensive flax swamps of the Manawatu floodplain are now just part of the past. The drainage of the last extensive area, the Moutoa Estate, and the removal of the flax plants were the final steps in the demise of the flax industry. The first signs of changes to come came in the sixties when reports of Japanese dissatisfaction with phormium tenax woolpacks were received. Although the sound of the flaxstripper was heard for a few years when Bonded Felts set up one to gain fibre for their felt, flax is today only utilised in the production of Maori craft and by many citizens as a plant in their gardens. But the textile indus­try remains and the prosperity of the Borough is closely- related to the continued developments of the Feltex plant. Although it does not domin­ate the local employment pattern to the same extent as Woolpacks did, it is still the largest single employer of Foxtonians.

Of the three factors upon which the Borough's growth has depended the most permanent, and increasingly the most influential, has been its location. As employment opportunities have increased in nearby Levin and Palmerston North, Foxtonians have been able to find employment and still reside in the home town. Excellent roads have meant that the trip to work takes no longer than those taken by many city dwellers. Location on State Highway One has brought employment to the town not only in the service stations, dairies, motels and takeaways but also in the increasing number of light industries developing at the southern entrance to the Borough. Although not located on the coast itself, Fox­ton's location within easy reach of the Foxton Beach settlement is a decided advantage to the commercial centre in particular. The re­-introduction of Saturday shopping has attracted much business to the town and given a welcome boost to a commercial sector which had begun to show signs of decay.

The sandy nature of the soil in the Foxton area has been a major factor in the development of an industrial base rather than an agricultu­ral one. Serving the farming community has been a comparatively minor function of the town when it is compared to most other small towns in New Zealand. Although the mild climate and easily worked soil have attracted market gardening the major development in land use in recent years has been that of horse racing. Although the local race­course has not found favour with the Racing Commission it has certain­ly been recognised by horse trainers as an ideal location for their requirements. Over the past decade employment in this industry has mushroomed and it seems certain to play an important role in the future of the town.

With tourism being recognised as an important part of the nation's growth in the future it is not surprising that Foxton has looked closely at this sector of the economy. In terms of the Manawatu region Foxton has a long history of European settlement and the changes that have occurred weave a pattern of development of much interest. Formal recognition of this history was first given by the formation of an His­torical Society in the late sixties. This small group of enthusiasts have been steadily collecting information on the past in an attempt to pre­serve it for the future. In the mid-eighties the Chamber of Commerce initiated the moves that have led a positive effort from the business community to utilise the town's history. At the moment the success of this venture is in the balance but the efforts to date have begun to awaken in the citizens an interest in the past.

But all these indicators of future development may be of no avail as far as the future of the Borough, whose centennial this publication commemorates, is concerned. The work of the Local Government Com­mission has included looking at the status of Foxton and suggesting that it should become part of a larger administrative unit. To date the fateful day has been avoided but the situation at the moment does not make for optimism. The Borough has survived for 100 years, an achievement that has been beyond many other small towns, and if the future means a return to a unit similar to the old Manawatu County of last century, Foxton will be a strong influence in it. Even if this is to be the last celebration of the Borough of Foxton the town will continue to develop and its history will continue to be worthy of recording. As a town, Foxton's continued existence, while much dependent on the con­tinued success of the Feltex plant, seems bright, and its broadening economic base is an important factor in this optimistic forecast.

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