Maori settlements were situated in many places before European immigrants arrived, particularly along the Manawatu River.
Dannevirke is in the northern section of the area known last century as the "Seventy Mile Bush" which, when cleared by European (mainly Scandinavian) settlers, proved suitable for pastoral farming. By 1900 the present pattern of sheep, cattle and dairy farming was well developed.
In about 1870 a move was made by the Government of the day to induce immigration from Norway & Denmark, as these folk were considered to be good settlers.
The following ships brought immigrants for Dannevirke:-
The 'HOVDING' from Christiania brought 365 Norwegians and 11 Swedes. It made 2 trips - in May 1872 and in 1873.
The 'BALLARAT' departed in June 1872 from London with 71 Danes and arrived in Napier with the HOVDING in 1872.
The 'ENGLAND' departed London in December 1871.
The 'HALCIONE' departed in April 1872.
The 'FRIEDEBERG' from Hamburg in May 1872.
The HOVDING & BALLARAT formed the main nucleus.
Land in the 70 mile bush was set aside and 40 acres each were granted to be purchased by the first settler families upon arrival.
Immediately upon arrival, these families were balloted sections: P JACOBSEN, J SORENSEN, J HALVORSEN, E PERSEN, B AMUNDSEN, H WIND, C JOHNSON, N ANDERSEN, A FAGER, A NILSEN, A BERNTSEN, C LARSEN, J MICKLESEN, H MORTENSEN, J ANDERSEN, P JOHANSEN, H ISRAELSEN, J GRONBECK, H PEDLAR JENSEN, H JENSEN, A NILSEN.
Dannevirke became a major sawmilling centre, at one time housing 30 sawmills within a 10 mile radius. Then as the forests disappeared many moved on further afield to new forestry blocks. Those that stayed settled into dairying and sheep farming.
In 1886 the Lutheran Church pastor was H.M. RIES.
The first school opened in 1873 with Mrs JOHNSON (or JORGENSEN), a Danish teacher. Initially called Dannevirke School, it was later renamed Dannevirke North School.
The first sawmill was opened in 1883.
The rural area reached its highest population density in the early 1920s, remained static for 30 years and has since declined. The urban population has been mostly constant for 60 years, but recently has been falling. Over one-third of the people in paid employment are employed in the agricultural industry which has been declining since 1984. Commercial forestry is a very new industry to the east of Dannevirke.
In the regional restructuring the area became incorporated into the Manawatu-Wanganui region.
The district has a very long roading network; there are 1945km of local roads or 0.104km for every resident, the highest level for any roading authority in the North Island and surpassed only by five South Island authorities.
The population of Tararua has continued to decrease since 1986 and is showing an accelerating rate of decline. The main reason is probably an unprecedented and unforeseen urban drift in the 1991-1996 period, caused by the rural downturn.
Map of the area