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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District]

Piraki Bay

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Piraki Bay.

Piraki has the double interest of being the site of the first settlement made by white men in Canterbury, and the last haunt on the Peninsula of much that was distinctive of nature there before Englishmen settled in New Zealand. The founder of the settlement, George Hempleman, was born at Altona, in Schleswig-Holstein, in 1799, and died, in the act of eating a peach, on the 13th of February, 1880, at Akaroa. Nearly the whole of his life in New Zealand was passed at Piraki, where there are still thousands of whalebones to testify to the success of his whaling station; though, as stated by the author of “Tales of Banks Peninsula,” the sand has drifted in patches over what seems to have been the principal part of the settlement, which was not far above high water mark. The same interesting writer observes that the upper portion of Piraki valley is more beautiful than any other part of the Peninsula, because it is still in a state of nature—one great mass of varied foliage, musical with birds; a place of hill and crag, creek and woodland where the native pigeons still abound, and the moko mokos, tuis and other birds swarm in thousands. A wise and humane people should contrive to conserve all this life and loveliness, not only at Piraki, but elsewhere throughout the country, without prejudice to the progress of practical settlement. Man does not live by bread alone, and the unimpaired beauty of nature stands in the front rank of a country's assets.

Piraki Estate (Frederick-Arthur Anson, Proprietor), Piraki. This estate, which is the property of Mr. Frederick Arthur Anson, and comprises some 4000 acres of excellent grazing country, is also one of the most historically interesting places in the South Island. It was at Piraki Cove that, in 1835. Captain Hempleman, of the brig “Bee,” from Sydney, started the first shore whaling station, and for several years he carried on a thriving business, though in constant danger from the sanguinary conflict which was then raging along the coast between the Kapiti followers of Rauparaha from the North and the Southern Otago Natives under Tuhawaiki, or “Bloody Jack,” as he was called by the white pioneers. It was to this little settlement, too, that a man-of-war's boat was sent from H.M.S. “Britomart,” on the 14th of August, 1840, to formally proclaim the annexation of the island to the British Crown. On the same sheltered and shelving sands Bishop Selwyn landed in January, 1844, from his mission yacht, to preach the gospel to the Maoris of the Ngaitahu tribe. These events and many others, including the original purchase of Piraki Valley from the Native chief by Captain Hempleman, are recorded in that pioneer's “log”—an early manuscript which is an interesting appendage to this estate. Upon the foundation of the Canterbury settlement in 1850 (the claims of all original purchasers having been set aside) fifty acres, R.S. 253, which covered the site of the still existing whaling station, were purchased from the Association by Mr. John Watson, Resident Magistrate at Akaoa, and member of a well known Irish County Carlow family. On this land his cousin, a Mr. Carew, built a house, in which he and his grown-up family might live. He grazed cattle on the adjoining hills which he rented from the Government, and laid the foundation of a garden and orchard, which have earned for him the grateful thanks of his successors. In time Merino sheep took the place of cattle, but the property remained unimproved, and the rough hillside, with it rocky summits, afforded the only access to the homestead, which was then also the training stables of “Mousetrap” and “Creepmouse,” horses well known to the racing calendar of their time. In the latter sixties the Carew family moved to Christchurch, and “Piraki” became the property of Captain Hawtrey, R.N., who already owned the French Farm on the Wainui shore of Akaroa harbour, and was a son the well-known Master of Eton. Only a few years had clapsed, however, before his yacht, on which he invariably made the journey to and from “Piraki,' was lost with himself and all hands on board, when going round to Akaroa on a squally night. In 1875, the property was purchased by Messrs Snow and Anson, who had crossed the Tasman Sea in the “Omeo,” early in the same year, from Melbourne, where they had arrived in 1874, having sailed from England in the “Malabar,” one of Green's old Indian troopships. In a very few years, more than 1000 acres of bush had been cleared, 2000 acres of tussock land laid down in English grasses, miles of fencing erected, the buildings extended, bride tracks made, and everything done that could add to the productiveness of the increased freehold area or improve the surroundings of the home. In 1882, Merinos, for which the artificial grasses were found to be too rich, began to give place to Leicesters and Lincolns, and since 1890, when Mr. Snow retired from the partnership, the flock has consisted entirely of coarse-woolled, but profitable sheep, because good producers of mutton for the frozen meat trade.

Mr. Frederick Arthur Anson, who is the son of the late Sir John, and heir presumptive to his brother, Sir William Reynell Anson, D.C.L., M.P. for the University, and Warden of All Souls' College, Oxford, was born on the 6th of November, 1850. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Oxford (B.A., 1872), and married, in 1878, Agnes, daughter of the late Mr. James Fraser Roberts, C.E., of Akaroa. He has always taken a lively and generous part in all matters of public interest, and has on more than one occasion unsuccessfully, though not ingloriously, contested the Akaroa or Ellesmere seat. He has discharged the duties of lay reader, and been chairman of the school committee. Mr. Anson was president of the Peninsula Farmers' Association for two successive years, and was the promoter and the only chairman of directors of the Akaroa Steam Launch Company, under whose auspices the launch “Piraki” was so successfully floated on the harbour. In 1887, Mr. Anson opened up and formed, for the benefit of the road board and the ratepayers, a bridle track which, though recently widened, still retains its name of the Jubilee Road; and he took a prominent part ten years afterwards in moving for the erection of the memorial on Flag Point, as well as in the ceremonies that attended its unveiling. Mr. Anson was first elected to the Akaroa County Council in 1884, and acted as its chairman from 1893 to 1899, when, family affairs requiring his presence in England, he resigned the position. “Piraki” is now connected by telephone with Little River, and although it is a private wire, it is at the free service of the public whenever it may be required.