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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 8 (December 1, 1928)

Taneatua and Thereabouts

Taneatua and Thereabouts.

Taneatua, where the commercial tourists were warmly grected by townsfolk and farming people on Sunday, 28th October, is a busy country centre which only came into existence some thirty years ago. Here, where the strong mountain stream Waimana joins the Whakatane, there was, centuries ago, the camping place of the Urewera ancestor Taneatua, after whom the township was named, when the Government bought the Opouriao block and cut it up for close settlement. Originally a sheep run, on which Maori labour was chiefly employed, the Opouriao estate presently became the home of hundreds of farming folk, making a comfortable living out of dairying, stock fattening, and maize growing. The visitors gathered some idea of the value of this good country when over a breakfast as the guests of Taneatua residents, they were taken by car to the Opoouriao cheese factory, and along the well-settled plain to the Ruatoki factory. Some of them were taken to Mr. Charles Garlick's farm, and from the top of the Puketi (Cabbage-tree Hill) they enjoyed a wide view over the fertile lands through which the broad willow-fringed Whakatane River flowed. This Puketi, by the way, is page 31 an historic place; its terraced sides and rug-pitted flat summit tell a tale of the days when it was a fortified village; and there is a tale of a thrilling episode on the Pa-top in the war days of 1869.

Ruatoki, where pakeha and Maori live as neighbours and supply the large dairy factory, greatly interested many of the travellers. There, on the alluvial levels where the Whakatane issues from its mountain gorge to wander leisurely over the plain, that famous fighting tribe the Urewera has its headquarters, and here was demonstrated the ability of the Maori to engage in regular dairying work, which one might have supposed to be foreign to the spirit of a race of bushmen and warriors. The cow and the maize field have made these people of the villages scattered about the plains from Ruatoki township to Tauarau a tribe whose industry and earning capacity are held up as a model to less progressive native communities.

At Opua. The train at the quay where the party joined launches for Russell.

At Opua. The train at the quay where the party joined launches for Russell.

Motoring down from Taneatua to Whakatane town, with the green plains on the left hand and its dark bushy hills rising abruptly close on the right, the pilgrims were handed over to the hospitality of the townsfolk.

Before parting from the Taneatua hosts, Mr. Merritt, on behalf of the travellers, thanked them for their kindness, and Mr. Walter Reid responded. The visit to the seaport town was preceded by a run through the Maraetotara Gorge and over the hills by a “hairpin” road to Ohope beach, a far-stretching firm strand, surf-washed, with a background of pohutukawa-fringed cliffs.

Whakatane town, pert between the dark-grey volcanic cliffs and the estuary, was found a place of peculiar interest. There is no town along the coast so curiously placed. The visitors saw the Wairere waterfall cascading over the pohutukawahung precipice and flowing through the town. They looked up at the craggy walls lifting so suddenly in the rear of the hotels and stores, and they were told something of the story of the tall Pohoturoa Rock, which stands like a silent policeman to divide the traffic at the entrance to the town. They stood for their photographs at that historic rock, which, in the days of 1870, was a real bulwark to the settlement; forming the middle part of a part-natural, part-artificial barricade from the Papaka redoubt hill to the river bank.

Whakatane's citizens feasted their guests and there were felicitous speeches all round. The Mayor, Mr. W. Sullivan, declared that the visit of the Commerce Train would tend to cement the friendship of the men of the country with those of the town. The County Chairman spoke of the impetus the railway had given to primary production in the district, and he congratulated Mr. Sterling and page 32 page 33
Personnel of New Zealand's First Commerce Train—Oct.—Nov. 1928 Who's Who: K: Key to Names

Personnel of New Zealand's First Commerce Train—Oct.—Nov. 1928
Who's Who: K: Key to Names

Group Photographed at Whangare Whangarei, North Auckland

page 34 those who were associated with him in the work of popularising the service. Tracing the farming development of the Opouriao country and the Rangitaiki Plains, he predicted that in two or three years, the Whakatane district would be turning out dairy produce to the value of half-a-million pounds annually.

A motor run over the transformed Rangitaiki lands, and the dairy factory at Edgecombe—named after the lofty boldly-shaped extinct volcanic cone which stands sentry over the upper valley—and then the exceedingly pleasant day out was closed at Matata, where the train was boarded again for Tauranga.