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

Spurt in Settlement

Spurt in Settlement

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.


Maize was extensively grown in Poverty Bay and on the East Coast in the early 1830's. The earliest variety is stated to have been a dark reddish-purple sort named Gentleman of Virginia. This cereal can be grown on the best land in Poverty Bay for a number of seasons in succession without any appreciable drop in yield. The order of popularity in 1948 was: American hybrids, Horsetooth, Marigold and Ninety Days. Close on 4,000 acres are cropped each season.

Wheat (according to the Harris Memoirs) was introduced into Poverty Bay in January, 1840, by Te Waaka Perohuka (a chief who lived near Kaupapa). Shortly afterwards, Andrew Arthur procured a bushel from Wellington. The first large crop was grown in 1846 at Matawhero for Robert Espie by William Tarr, who had settled in the district with his wife and some children in 1845. He died in 1875; his widow (Granny Tarr) was in her 96th year when she died in 1908. In 1850 Poverty Bay's exports of wheat ran into 10,502 bushels.

Upon the advice of the Home Government, which intimated that no British colonists had ever received compensation in respect of losses caused by disturbances enacted by savage neighbours, Poverty Bay settlers who suffered heavily during the East Coast War and the Te Kooti revolt were not assisted financially.


Born in Scotland in 1854, John Clark came out to New Zealand with a cousin, David Dobbie, in 1876. Another passenger by the same vessel was William Graham, of Ormond. Clark and Dobbie took over Okahuatiu run (30,000 acres) in 1876. Their first home was a one-room whare. When the partnership was dissolved in 1882 Mr. Dobbie remained on the property, as manager for the Auckland Agricultural Company, till 1899, and then took up Totangi. Mr. Clark, in 1882, secured Harris and Ferguson's rights in Opou and adjacent lands, and became one of Poverty Bay's most successful sheepfarmers. He was the lessee of Te Arai station (10,691 acres) when the Crown took it over from the Hon. G. R. Johnson in 1907 at £106,502, and he received £7,447 as compensation in connection with the termination of his lease. He told the Compensation Court that he had paid £135,000 for Waipaoa (34,000 acres), together with 30,000 sheep and 1,400 cattle; that he also held Papatu (5,000 acres), which was partly leasehold; Opou (4,000 acres), the greater part of which was then leasehold; and had partnership interests in Mangapoike. These properties carried, in all, 47,000 sheep and 2,400 cattle. He broke in 18,000 acres of Waipaoa, and replaced the Lincoln flock with Romneys. Mr. Clark served on Cook County Council and Gisborne Harbour Board, and was a director of several leading commercial concerns. He died on 22 April, 1930.

Ewen Cameron (born near Inverness in 1840) was a son of a noted Scottish cattle dealer. He arrived in Auckland in 1860, and served with the Militia in the Waikato. Between 1865 and 1870 he was shepherding in Hawke's Bay. He took up Toanga in 1871. Upon the property stood a redoubt, which had bullet-proof walls 20 feet high. He dug a wide moat round it, and constructed a drawbridge. This was his first home there. Known as “The Laird of Toanga,” he was one of the district's most capable farmers, and, for a number of years, its largest exporter of livestock. He died in February, 1929.

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Arthur Bruce Newman (born in India in 1852) was only a lad when he came out with his parents to Hawke's Bay, where he learned sheepfarming. In 1876 he acquired Ngakaroa. He was a successful breeder of racehorses, and an authority on pedigrees. He died on 18 April, 1928.

William Lee Rees (born at Bristol in 1836) migrated to Victoria in 1850. He was ordained a Congregational minister in 1861, and was called to the Bar in 1865. He moved to the West Coast (South Island) in 1866, and was admitted to practice in New Zealand. In 1869 he went to reside in Auckland; in 1873 he was elected to the Auckland Provincial Council; and, in 1876, he became M.H.R. for Auckland City East. For a brief period he then resided at Napier. He made his home in Gisborne in 1879. Returning to Auckland in 1889, he was again elected to Parliament for his old seat. During a stonewall he addressed the House for 24 hours! In 1890 he resigned and contested the Hon. A. Cadman's seat, but was defeated. He returned to Gisborne in 1894. Mr. Rees was the author of Sir Gilbert Leigh, a story dealing with the Indian Mutiny, From Poverty to Plenty, and, in conjunction with Miss A. L. Rees, Life and Times of Sir George Grey. He died on 18 May, 1912.