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The Early Canterbury Runs: Containing the First, Second and Third (new) Series

Purau — (Runs 7, 183, and 330)

(Runs 7, 183, and 330)

Purau station was started by the Greenwood brothers in 1843. I gave some account of the Greenwoods in my notice of Motunau. They were James Dent, Joseph, and Edward, and were farming people from Yorkshire who had come out to the North Island to settle under the old New Zealand Company. Like the Deanses, Hays, and Sinclairs, they did not care for the prospects of settling in the North, and came down to the South Island in 1843. Unlike the others, the Greenwoods did not bring any rights to buy freehold in this island but simply squatted at Purau. The page 332Maoris objected to their squatting but eventually leased them all the land on the south side of Port Cooper and Gebbie's Valley, and back to a line from Kaituna to Port Levy. The yearly rent was 'seven blankets and some printed callico '(value £3 or £4), but was increased to £8 a year on October 1, 1846. Except the Rhodes brothers and perhaps the Deans brothers and the Hays, they were the first people to bring stock to Canterbury. By February, 1844, they had 50 head of cattle and 500 sheep at Purau.

While the Greenwoods were at Purau the station was 'stuck up' by Blue Cap and his gang, our first Canterbury bushrangers; but both Andersen and Hay have described the incident so fully that I need not go into it again.

The Greenwoods decided to move to Motunau, and in 1847 sold Purau to Rhodes Brothers. The deal included the station improvements and most of the stock; but the Greenwoods reserved some horses, cattle and sheep, and took them to Motunau. The price was £1710, which the neighbouring settlers thought cheap.

George Rhodes moved over to Purau from Akaroa and brought William Birdling, afterwards his overseer, with him. In 1850 his brother Robert Heaton Rhodes came to New Zealand and joined George Rhodes at Purau and soon afterwards took over the management of it, when George went to start the Levels station at Timaru. Robert Heaton had been a pioneer squatter in Australia and became the biggest runholder in Canterbury—

'He, the chief of all the squatters
Largest holder of runholders,'

as the Song of the Squatters says. By 1850, Rhodes Brothers had 6500 sheep, 100 head of cattle, and eight horses on their Peninsula runs.

While Captain Thomas, the association's agent, was in Lyttelton preparing for the Canterbury settlement, he employed a great many men, surveyors, carpenters, navvies, Maoris, and so on, and Rhodes Brothers supplied them with mutton from Purau—very poor mut-page 333ton some of it was, Captain Thomas said (according to Mrs Woodhouse's book). But old settlers have told me with admiration that while Rhodes was supplying the early settlement with mutton, he never once missed bringing it across the harbour in his boat, whatever the weather was; so, good or bad, they never had to go without it.

The first license under Provincial Government was issued in November, 1851, but it was cancelled; and in January, 1852, Rhodes Brothers got a new license for five thousand eight hundred acres of Purau (Run 7). The licenses for the higher country about Mount Herbert were not issued until May, 1857, and December, 1859 (Runs 183 and 330—nine thousand five hundred acres altogether). I cannot say why these runs were so long unlet. Perhaps Rhodes's lower country blocked the frontage, or perhaps a new survey showed that Run 7 did not extend as far as was supposed.

After R. H. Rhodes went to live in Christchurch in 1866, James Guild, the manager of Ahuriri, supervised Purau, Kaituna, and Ikoraki. Purau in those days carried 7000 or 8000 sheep; but the sheep from all the Rhodes's other Peninsula stations were shorn there for many years, so there were sometimes up to near 20,000 sheep on it. But anyone interested in Purau can read its full history in George Rhodes of the Levels. Besides the sheep and some cattle, there was a herd of alpacas at Purau. These never mixed with the sheep and always stuck to the part of the run where they had been first turned out. They would not work for a dog; so the shepherds mustered them with stockwhips, like cattle. They were brutes to shear. Their legs had to be tied to stop them kicking and their heads bagged to stop them spitting green slime. The shearers refused to shear them; so the shepherds (or probably more often the manager) had to do them. These alpacas had been imported in 1865 by the Wellington Provincial Government, who lost a good deal of money by them and sold them to Robert Rhodes in 1869. They never increased very much at Purau, though page 334there were a few left until Rhodes Brothers sold the station.

George Rhodes had died in 1864, and in 1874, R. H. Rhodes was an old, sick man in England. W. B. Rhodes had always lived in the North Island. It was decided to wind up the Rhodes brothers' partnership, and W. B. Rhodes sold Purau to H. D. Gardiner for £20,000 as a going concern. I do not know how much freehold there was; but according to the 1879 sheep returns, the station carried 8000 sheep in those days. I believe there were about 1000 cattle and about a dozen or 20 alpacas, which Gardiner promptly sold. Most of the land at Purau is still in the hands of Gardiner's descendants.