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

Natives Build Important Road Outlets

Natives Build Important Road Outlets

When the provincial system of government was inaugurated in 1853 Poverty Bay and the East Coast were included in Auckland Province. On account of opposition by the natives, the Poverty Bay Highways Board was not formed until 1870. The natives were won over by Donald McLean, who pointed out to them that Ngapuhi, whom he described as “a more advanced tribe,” had asked for boards in their districts. J. B. Poynter, J. W. Johnson, S. Parsons, W. King and Major Westrup were its first members, and J. Drummond, C.E., the first engineer.

For the year 1870–1 only £99 was collected in rates. The General Government provided a subsidy of £82. A rate estimated to yield £500 was struck for 1871–2. In October, 1872, when the treasury was empty, Captain Read earned the board's grateful thanks by making a temporary advance at 10 per cent. interest. No cost attached to the annual election. Each year a meeting of the ratepayers was convened. The chairman reviewed the work done during the previous 12 months. Any ratepayer was at liberty to ask questions. Nominations were then called for five page 389 members to constitute the incoming board. If a poll proved necessary, it was held there and then. The rate for the new year was settled by the ratepayers by resolution.

Details of the European population on 1 March, 1874, are as follows: Kawakawa: 9 males and 3 females; total, 12. Waiapu: 13 males and 7 females; total, 20. Gisborne: 318 males and 236 females; total, 554. Ormond: 154 males and 97 females; total, 251. Other localities: 254 males and 110 females; total, 364. Grand total, 1,201. The large population at Ormond is accounted for by the fact that it was headquarters of the Armed Constabulary. Named after the Hon. J. D. Ormond, of Hawke's Bay, the township boasted several large business premises, two hotels, a post office, a police station, a hall and a library. Some sections in the business area were sold in 1874 at from £50 to £100 apiece. Four years earlier they would not have fetched more than a few shillings each.

The General Government met the cost of the formation of the main highways. In 1872 the Gisborne to Ormond Road (estimated cost, £5,200) was begun. Much of the work at the Ormond end was carried out by the Armed Constabulary. No provision was made for metalling. A start was then made to build a road from Makaraka to Te Arai (estimated cost, £1,500). In 1873, the Highways Board received a grant of £680 to maintain these roads, the work being restricted to throwing the mud out of the watertables on to the crown of the road. L. and F. Simpson secured a contract in 1872 to cut a bridle track from Ormond to Opotiki. Only resident native labour could be employed. Some of the cuttings on the northern section had to be hewn through solid rock.

Early in 1873 the work of making a bridle track from Gisborne to Hicks Bay was let to the natives in 35 sections. G. J. Winter (who had laid off the line in 1871–2) was supervisor. There was trouble over the wages on the Puatai section. The natives reckoned that they should be paid for wet, as well as for fine, days, and irrespective of the amount of work done. A further difficulty arose at Whangara, where the resident natives altered the route. Maior Ropata had to be sent for to mediate. The cutting of the bridle track from Gisborne to Wairoa, via Te Reinga, was finished by native workers in 1877. Steps were then taken to widen it, and it became available for wheel traffic at the end of 1887.

So much discontent arose over what was described as “the shabby treatment” which the Auckland Provincial Council had meted out to Poverty Bay that it was decided, at a public meeting in July, 1873, to request the General Government to grant the district separation. Up till that year the Council had received £10,405 from Poverty Bay, and, in return, it had expended within the district only £3,250 (inclusive of £2,500, the cost of the township, surveys, etc.). Among the major items which Poverty Bay had contributed were: Township sales, £5,500; Customs revenue, refund by the General Government of three-eighths of the £7,000 collected at Gisborne during 1870–1, £2,625; capitation allowance (substituted for the former system), 15/- per capita en 800 inhabitants in 1871–2, £600; ditto, on 1,000 inhabitants in 1872–3, £750. Grants made by the Council were: 1870, nil; 1871, £200; 1872, £250; 1873, £300.

As a sequel to the complaint, a seat for Poverty Bay and the East Coast was provided on the Auckland Provincial Council in 1873. J. W. Johnson, the first holder, defeated James Wyllie by 95 votes to 11. He resigned in July, 1875, when he went on a visit to England. His successor was S. C. Caulton, who had been opposed by H. E. Webb. Mr. Caulton held office from September, 1875, till the abolition of the provinces in November, 1876.

The privately-owned ferries were taken over by the Highways Board in 1872. They included a boat ferry on the Taranganui River, a punt at page 390 the mouth of the Waipaoa River, and a punt at the Te Arai River crossing. By 1874 there were also boat ferries at Kaiteratahi, Tolaga Bay, Waiapu and Ohutau. A bridge was thrown across the Te Arai River in 1874, but it was washed out to sea in 1876. The punt had then to be restored until 1885, when a new bridge was erected. On 8 August, 1878, a bridge over the Waipaoa River at Matawhero was opened.