Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Timber Industry

Timber Industry

Its Rise and Decline

Pit-sawing began in Poverty Bay and on the East Coast before New Zealand came under British rule. Timber was required for casks for the whaling stations and shipmasters trading out of Sydney were always on the look out for good lines. Subsequently, when the cities were being founded, all classes of timber were in keen demand. Pipiwhakao Forest, which stood between Matawhero and Manutuke, consisted chiefly of white pine. Native tradition states that it was so named by Paoa because page 331 his dog howled when it was tied up there. Trees on which kakas were trapped bore the names of distinguished ancestors. Fire destroyed a large portion of it in 1865. Makauri was also famed for its imposing forest. Most of the timber in it was white pine, but some large clumps of puriri and matai enhanced its value for commercial purposes. In 1878 much of this bush was ruined by fire.

Poverty Bay's first steam sawmill was erected at Makauri in 1872 by William King. It had a capacity of 7,000 feet per day. His earliest price-list reads: White pine, boards and scantling, 9/- per 100 feet at the pit, or 11/- delivered in Gisborne; t. and g., 13/- and 14/6 respectively. In winter the timber was rafted down the Taruheru River to his jetty near Peel Street. In March, 1875, he built a mill and yard adjacent to the jetty. When his mill at Makauri was destroyed by fire on 22 December, 1878, sixty hands were thrown out of work. In 1880 he took over Climo's mill at Ormond, and, in 1884, he bought Hutton's mill at Te Karaka.

Towards the close of, and for some years after, the turn of the century, Poverty Bay had to depend chiefly upon Mercury Bay for timber. W. L. Rees then headed a movement to draw supplies from the heavily-timbered areas beyond Te Karaka. Peter Hansen operated the first mill at Motu. During the boom a number of firms milled extensively in the Rakauroa-Motu district. By 1940 most of the easily accessible timber had been cut out.


A colony of termites, which reached Waipaoa in a power pole imported from Australia, established a nest in the stump of a willow tree, made a runway across a road, and attacked a house. Arsenic powder was used to exterminate the pest.


Christian Hansen (born in Denmark) migrated to Queensland in 1852. He came over to Makauri in 1873, and was followed by his parents and other members of the family in 1874. When he moved to Motu in the late 1880's that district was in its virgin state. He established an accommodation house—at first only a slab hut—which became the halfway house between Gisborne and Opotiki. Known as “The Father of Motu,” he died on 11 July, 1910.

William King (born at Blaby, England, in 1837) landed at Auckland in 1862. Settling in Poverty Bay as a builder in 1866, his first contract was to erect for Captain Read the building which, for a number of years, was used as a courthouse. He was the district's principal sawmiller in the early days. His death took place on 31 December, 1902.

James Whinray (born in Lancashire in 1845) reached Napier in 1874, and, in 1877, moved to Gisborne, where he opened a furniture warehouse. A sideboard in rimu and puriri which he sent to the Franco-British Exhibition in 1909 gained an award of a silver medal. Carved on the bottom panel were a pig, a flax bush and a cabbage tree, the design being described as “Poverty Bay's Coat of Arms.” He served on Gisborne Borough Council and Gisborne Harbour Board. His name was given to Whinray's Park, a State forest reserve at Motu, which he induced the Government to set aside for the public. He died on 3 August, 1912. Mrs. Whinray was 91 years old when she died on 25 April, 1940.