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



Footrot was very prevalent in Poverty Bay towards the close of the 1860's. At Maraetaha J. W. Johnson killed about 500 of the most badly-smitten sheep in his flock. Lungworm became common after the big flood in 1876. On Toroa, A. F. Hardy had to bury 3,000 sheep. Facial eczema first appeared in Poverty Bay among some lambs on Repongaere in 1874.

Variegated thistle, which was first noticed near the mouth of the Waipaoa River in 1864, soon became widespread, and, in 1873, the Poverty Bay Highways Board declined to enforce the Thistle Act on the ground that many of its ratepayers might find the cost of eradicating this thistle ruinous. Prior to the Second World War the Gisborne-East Coast Sheepowners' Union subscribed £500 towards the cost of stationing an entomologist in the Balkans to search for a parasite which would control the pest, but, upon the outbreak of hostilities, he had to be withdrawn.

Poverty Bay's worst experience of caterpillars was in January, 1873. Following upon a drought lasting six weeks, armies of the hungry insects swarmed over the countryside, ruining grain crops and grass set aside for seed. Dips were erected on the highways leading into Poverty Bay from the north in 1921 to prevent the introduction of cattle tick, which had spread as far south as Taneatua. The red-legged mite found its way from Westshore (Napier) to the vicinity of Matawhero railway station in October, 1946, and it had become established on railway properties as far away as Ormond by July, 1948.

In 1874 the number of sheep in the areas which now form the counties of Cook, Waikohu, Waiapu, Uawa and Matakaoa was just under 200,000. By 1889 the half-million mark had been passed; in 1898 the total had exceeded one million; and, by 1910, it was in excess of two millions. The 1945 figures were: Cook, 728,547; Waikohu, 611,555; Waiapu, 459,392; Uawa, 233,516; and Matakaoa, 109,789—grand total, 2,142,799.

Poverty Bay has long been famed as a breeding-ground for cattle. The Shorthorn did not take kindly to the punishment involved in keeping country in order, and has been extensively replaced by the Hereford and Aberdeen Angus. As at 31 January, 1945, the number of cattle (with the figures for dairy cows in parentheses) in each of the East Coast counties was: Matakaoa, 18,894 (1,610); Waiapu, 70,761 (4,951); Uawa, 27,429 (1,948); Cook, 93,433 (9,623); and Waikohu, 96,321 (3,831)—aggregates, 306,838 (21,963).

The district's wool clip in 1879–80 amounted to 2,000 bales, valued at £34,000. In 1919, wool worth £2,034,948 was exported, but, on account of the scarcity of shipping, the exports for the previous year had been valued at only £501,652. Between 1922 and 1935 the best year was 1924, with 19,081,788 lbs. (£1,287,677), and the worst 1931 (during the slump), 13,603,072 lbs. (£283,630). For 1940 the figures were: 19,483,496 lbs. (£N.Z. 1,008,002).*

Frozen meat exports from Gisborne in 1890 came to 14,858 cwt., valued at £18,471. Heavy seasons were: 1919, 410,412 cwt. (£1,019,138); 1920, 443,449 cwt. (£1,115,044); and 1922, 512,011 cwt. (£1,008,853). In only one of the lean years during the 1929–33 slump did the aggregate value exceed £500,000; the worst year was 1932, 289,050 cwt. (£392,598). In 1940 the figures were: 242,639 cwt. (£618,181).*

In 1884 Poverty Bay exported produce to the value of £80,501. By 1909 the figure had risen to £1,040,621, and by 1916 to £2,000,000. In 1919 a record year (£3,466,502) was experienced. In 1915, when the total stood at £1,941,736, the value of the exports was equivalent to £96/13/6 per capita, as/ compared with a per capita average of £24/1/9 for the whole Dominion. The exports for 1940 were valued at £N.Z. 1,745,293.*

[* On account of Gisborne ceasing, in 1940, to be visited by Home vessels, statistics for later years are not available. Since 1940 Poverty Bay's exports have been credited to the port (Napier in particular) at which they were placed on board exporting vessels.]

Although the Poverty Bay-East Coast clip totals about 55,000 bales, Gisborne is page 324 not on the national wool sales roster. A sale scheduled for 5 December, 1907, fell through, on account of the growers withdrawing 4,000 of the 5,000 bales catalogued because the market had receded. For the 1920–21 season three sales were awarded Gisborne, but, when the first was about to be held, the market was dull and most of the growers withdrew their clips. The Wool Disposal Committee scheduled two sales for the 1947–48 season; a new store was erected and some others improved at an aggregate cost of £115,000; but the overseas buyers refused to attend on the ground that the strain attendant upon their work in New Zealand was already too great.