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


Between 1871 and 1875 settlement in Poverty Bay made great strides, and, in the early 1880's steps were also taken to break in a number of very large areas on the East Coast. Among important leases that were obtained in the early 1870's were: 1871—E. B. Walker (Mangaheia No. 2), for 15 years, but he assigned to Robson and Sherratt in 1872; 1873—W. S. Greene (Okahuatiu); Barker and McDonald (Kaiti), for 21 years at 8d. per acre; 1874—W. Cooper (Wainui); S. Locke (Waikohu), from W. F. Hargreaves [this run was freeholded at 5/- per acre by S. Locke and M. Hutchinson, and, in 1882, upon a subdivision of interests, E. M. Hutchinson (then only 17 years old) went on to his father's portion]; F. E. Tatham (Anaura); E. Murphy (Paremata); Pitt and Porter (Matakaoa); A. C. Arthur (Tokomaru); C. Brown (Whangaparaoa); 1875—C. J. and A. C. Harrison (Rangatira); H. Loisel and Cook (Puatai); J. Robertson (Maraehara and Matakaoa), but Captain Porter rebought his interest in Matakaoa; R. H. Noble (The Delta); J. Seymour (Whangara); 1876—A. B. Newman (Ngakaroa); A. G. Burnett (Tangihanga); J. Clark and D. Dobbie (Okahuatiu); 1877—J. Trimmer (Tawhiti, No. 2), for 21 years at £150 for the first seven years, £130 for the next term, and £105 for the last term, but, in 1883, he assigned his lease to J. N. Williams; 1878—Graham and Kinross (Wharekaka); D. Doull (Wainui).

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In 1875 Barker and McDonald acquired R. R. Curtis's and other interests in Whataupoko—14,000 acres freehold and 2,000 acres leasehold. They now held 15,000 acres of freehold and 32,000 acres of leasehold—the finest tract close to Gisborne, and ran 34,000 sheep. R. H. Noble bought Takapau (7,334 acres) during the same year. Puketiti (7,386 acres) became the property of Cattell and Buckley, of Wellington, in 1877. E. F. Ward obtained a lease of Pongawhakairo in 1882, but assigned it to J. N. Williams in 1883. During 1882 Sir G. Whitmore took up Tuparoa (18,000 acres); Porter and Croft leased Pahitaua for 21 years, and J. N. Williams, Pakarae No. 2 for a like term. During 1884 J. C. Brown, M.H.R., and J. Herbert leased Puninga; W. B. Common, Mangaheia No. 1; and E. Murphy, Panikau.

Bush clearing on an extensive scale began in Poverty Bay and on the East Coast in the early 1880's. In 1883 the Wellington firm of Muir, Finlay, Lockie, Greenfield and Stewart let contracts for the felling of thousands of acres on Waipaoa block, and, in 1884, J. N. Williams, of Hawke's Bay, found employment for 200 men at bushfelling and other classes of work on Waipiro block. The peak of the bushfelling period was between 1890 and 1910. During December, 1907, the smoke was so dense on some days that Kaiti Hill was partially obscured. Dr. Heale lost his life on 19 December, 1895, during a “burn” on Whakaroa (a Waimata run), which was owned by F. J. Lysnar and himself. He went off, unbeknown to the other members of the party, to start a fire, and was caught by a sudden change in the wind.

A bold, but unavailing, bid to gain financial backing from the British Government to a plan aimed at settling between 2,000 and 3,000 British families in Poverty Bay was made by W. L. Rees in 1888. The project embraced a number of heavily-mortgaged, native-owned blocks situated as under: Motu district (61,000 acres); Matawai (15,000 acres); Mangatu (140,000 acres); and Okahuatiu and adjacent properties (60,000 acres)—in all, 276,000 acres.

Mr. Rees described his new vision as “Co-operative Colonisation. It had the support of all the local bodies. Armed with petitions, he set out for London, with Wi Pere for a co-helper and Miss A. L. Rees as his secretary. When Wi Pere saw so much shipping in the Thames he became very perturbed. It seemed to him that all the people of England were about to leave just when he and Mr. Rees had come to speak to them!

The campaign promised to be fruitful. An influential committee, including the Marquis of Lorne (who was chairman) and the Earl of Aberdeen and Lord Onslow, was formed. In the page 319 House of Commons, Mr. Broadhurst, M.P. for Nottingham, presented a petition, urging the Government to guarantee the payment of interest at 3% on a loan of £1,000,000. Letters then appeared in the British press from anonymous writers, who averred that families placed upon the blocks would starve. A cable from New Zealand to the effect that the titles were imperfect and that the Government could not vouch for Mr. Rees's figures brought the negotiations to an end.