Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.
Severe Setbacks at Outset
Matakaoa County was formed in 1919, and the first council meeting was held on 22 May, 1920. George Kirk (chairman of Waiapu County) was appointed chairman. His associates were: C. I. B. Beckett, K. F. Reed, W. F. Metcalfe, A. E. Kemp, W. Walker, R. T. Kohere, H. McClutchie and A. L. Allan. The first clerk was A. Whitehead (later a Judge of the Native Land Court). Mr. Metcalfe succeeded Mr. Kirk as chairman in 1921, and, five years later, Mr. Reed took over the position. Upon Mr. Reed's death in 1929 Mr. Kemp became chairman. In 1921 D. J. McNaught was appointed clerk.
Early in its career the county suffered heavy setbacks. It assumed a liability of £15,000 (being part of the Waiapu County's main road and bridges loan) and another of £1,200 in connection with the Te Araroa jetty. Anticipating that the wharfage dues that would be provided by a freezing works that had just been built at Hicks Bay would meet the loan charges, it borrowed £30,000 and built a wharf there. However, the works was closed after the 1925–6 season. By then, the county had also raised several small loans for road works.
The county's revenue was further adversely affected during the depression in the late 1920's and early 1930's. Forty per cent. of the county had not left the natives' hands, and only 20 per cent. was European freehold. As many of the residents were unable to meet their rating obligations, the council, in 1932, sought guidance from the Government. On 1 May, 1933, the county was placed under C. H. Bull, of Gisborne, as commissioner, but the council was retained as a consultative body. Upon Mr. Bull's death in 1944 D. E. Chrisp, Gisborne, became commissioner, and, page 408 in 1946, his term was extended until 1950. The capital value of the county in 1946 was £586,298, compared with £1,045,712 in 1920.
In 1878 there were 9 Europeans at Horoera, 6 at Te Araroa, and 3 at Matakaoa. The European population of the county in 1926 was 539 and the natives numbered 963. In 1945 the figures were 303 and 1,547 respectively, plus 3 per cent. as an allowance for residents away on war service.
Dr. Tutere Wi Repa (born at Pahaoa, Bay of Plenty) was a son of Ropiha Wi Repa and Wahawaha. He was educated at Te Kaha Native School and Te Aute College. A scholarship enabled him to enter the Medical School at Otago University. With Sir Peter Buck, a fellow-student, he shared pioneer Maori honours in graduating for the medical profession. He represented Te Aute, Otago University and Poverty Bay at Rugby and was prominent in tennis and other sports. Not only was he an excellent debater, but he was also a gifted writer on Maori history, customs and problems. After practising in the Dunedin Hospital and at Gisborne he moved to Te Araroa, where he ministered to the needs of widely scattered native communities, and where many of his well-earned fees could never be collected. He died on 25 October, 1945.