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Dannevirke (Danish: "Danish creation" or "Danes' work"), is a rural service town in the Manawatu-Wanganui Region of the North Island, New Zealand. It is the major town of the administrative Tararua District, the easternmost of the districts in which the Regional Council has responsibilities. The surrounding area has developed into dairy, beef cattle and sheep farming, which now provides the major income for the town's population of 6,000.
Prior to the arrival of the European settlers in the 1870s, the line of descent for Maori in the area was from the Takitimu / Kurahaupo waka. The tribe of the area is the Ngati Kahungunu / Rangitane, with geographic distinction to Te Rangiwhakaewa in the immediate Dannevirke region. The first known 'Aotea' meeting house was established approximately 15 generations ago (from 2010) followed by the building of a marae at Makirikiri near Dannevirke at about the same time as the first Nordic settlers arrived from Napier and Hawkes Bay.
The town was founded on 15 October 1872 by Danish, Norwegian and Swedish settlers, adherents of Scandinavism, who arrived at the port of Napier and moved inland. The settlers, who arrived under the Public Works Act, built their initial settlement in a clearing of the Seventy Mile Bush.
The Dannevirke after which the town was named is an extensive Viking-age fortification line in Denmark which had a strong emotive symbolic role for 19th-century Danes, especially after the site had fallen into German hands in the German-Danish War of 1864 - a recent and very painful event for these settlers.
The settlement quickly earned the nickname of "sleeper town", as the town's purpose was to provide totara sleepers for the Napier - Wellington railway line. At one stage the area had 50 operating sawmills. After the native bush was cleared, the land was turned into pasture for grazing animals.
Totara College hosts the Dannevirke Garden and Craft Expo, an annual event that has grown to a considerable size.
Dannevirke has produced a number of sports men and women in a number of different disciplines, among them rugby player John Timu, who made New Zealand teams in both union and league. Ewen Chatfield, who was an important member of the successful New Zealand cricket team of the 1980s Hadlee-Coney-Crowe era, is from Dannevirke, as is former All Black Duncan Hales, who now resides in the United States.
Other Dannevirke All Blacks were Colin Loader (1950s), Blair Furlong (1970 to South Africa), Lui Paewai who is widely acknowledged as the youngest All Black in history at just 17 years old (1924 Invincibles) and whose sons and grandsons (Doc, Hepa, Nathan and Murdoch respectively) went on to have good careers for Hawkes Bay and the New Zealand Maori side, and Roy White (post-war All Black in 1947-48.) Other All Blacks who spent time in Dannevirke included 1981 All Black tourist to Romania and France Wayne Neville, who attended Dannevirke High School, and John Ashworth, who moved from Canterbury to a farm near Dannevirke late in his career.
The Dannevirke Sports Club is the major outlet for sport in the town with netball, cricket and soccer teams as well as a rugby team that competes in the Premier Manawatu Senior Competition.
- Sir William Ian Axford - Space Scientist.
- Bob Bell - Akitio, Dannevirke - Farmer, Campaigner of Maxi yachts Condor of Bermuda & Condor.
- Joh Bjelke-Petersen - Australian politician and Premier of Queensland.
- Victor Bleasdale - Colonel, US Marine Corps, awarded Navy Cross twice for heroism in World War 1
- Rangi Chase - Rugby league player
- Ewen Chatfield - New Zealand test cricketer
- Peter Connell - Irish cricketer
- Peter Cullinane - Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Palmerston North
- Lauris Edmond - New Zealand poet
- Blair Furlong - New Zealand international rugby player
- Bryan Gould - Rhodes Scholar, Deputy Leader of the British Labour Party, Dux of Dannevirke High School.
- Duncan Hales - New Zealand international rugby player
- Weller Hauraki - Rugby league player
- Robert Ibell - Cellist, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
- Jack Kerr - New Zealand test cricketer
- Bridget Kight - Of Akitio b. ??, Black Sticks Hockey Player.
- Charlotte Kight - Of Akitio b. Dannevirke, Silver Fern Netballer.
- Peggy Koopman-Boyden - New Zealand academic
- Phil Lamason - World War II pilot
- Colin Loader - New Zealand international rugby player
- Sue Macauley - Playwright, author of 'Other Halves'
- Robin Maconie – composer, pianist, and writer
- Clint Newland - Rugby union player
- Lui Paewai - New Zealand international rugby player, youngest All Black ever
- Nitama 'Doc' Paewai New Zealand international (uncapped,) New Zealand Maori, New Zealand Army rugby player
- Murray Parker - New Zealand test and one-day cricketer
- Bill Phillips - New Zealand and Australian economist, creator of the Phillips curve
- Sir Alfred Ransom (1868–1943), Mayor of Dannevirke (1910–1919) and Member of Parliament (1922–1943)
- Hans Madsen Ries (1860–1926), Mayor of Dannevirke (1903–1905, 1906–1910)
- Luke Ronchi - Australian test and one-day international cricketer
- Katrina Shanks - Politician, Member of Parliament
- John Timu - Dual rugby and rugby league international
- Joe Ward - Rugby union player
- Sonny Wool - Psychic sheep of the 2011 Rugby World Cup (b. Dannevirke)
- "Kingdom of Denmark Bilateral Relations". New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Retrieved 2009-12-07. "There is a small Danish community in this country, descended from a group of early settlers who came out to clear thick North Island bush in the middle years of last century and stayed on to found settlements like Dannevirke and Norsewood. In fact, a former Prime Minister and high-ranking churchman from Denmark, Bishop Ditlev Gothard Monrad, established a community in Longburn, Manawatu and set up the first dairy plant in the region. He returned to Denmark after three years, but members of his family stayed behind, as well as a substantial art collection now held by Te Papa."
- "1st Lt Victor F. Bleasdale USMC". Retrieved 13 June 2012.
- Easton, Brian (7 July 2008). "From Ordinary Beginnings to Extraordinary Achievements". Retrieved 12 June 2012.
- Gustafson, Barry (1986). The First 50 Years : A History of the New Zealand National Party. Auckland: Reed Methuen. p. 339. ISBN 0-474-00177-6 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK].
- McGibbon, Ian. "Hans Madsen Ries - Biography". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 18 November 2012.