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

Original Area Now Divided Into Five Counties

Original Area Now Divided Into Five Counties

When Cook County was established in 1876 it comprised the areas which, to-day, form the counties of Cook, Waikohu, Uawa, Waiapu and Matakaoa, and it extended from Cape Runaway in the north to Paritu in the south. The members of its first council were: J. W. Johnson (Te Arai riding), J. R. Hurrey and C. W. Ferris (Gisborne), A. McDonald and J. Seymour (Waimata), E. Robson (Tolaga Bay) and T. W. Porter (Waiapu). At a meeting on 9 January, 1877, Mr. Johnson was elected chairman, Captain Tucker was appointed clerk (salary, £200 per annum) and R. M. Skeet, C.E., surveyor (salary, £150 per annum). Despite a protest by the Tolaga Bay ratepayers, the Counties Act as a whole was brought into force.

Te Arai, Ormond, Waikohu and Turanganui districts all had road boards in 1877. Patutahi followed in 1879, and then: Whataupoko (1882), Waimata (1885), Kaiti (1887), Ngatapa (1893), Pouawa and Aroha (1896) and Titirangi and Taruheru (1897). None of them functioned after December, 1917.

The county's first set of estimates (16 March, 1877) anticipated receipts totalling £3,541, the main items being: Rates, £1,541; Government subsidy, £500; and publicans' licence fees, £800. Roads proclaimed main roads were: Gisborne-Opotiki, East Coast and Gisborne-Wairoa (inland)—all to the boundaries of the old Highways District. A Public Works vote of £1,750 was received in April, 1877, and a schedule of road works, was drawn up as follows: Gisborne Borough to Makaraka, £200; Makaraka to King's Road, £300; King's Road-a-Hika, £250 Waerenga-a-Hika to Ormond, £250; road and approaches to proposed bridge over Waipaoa River, £300; and road to Waihirere quarry site, £450.

Towards the close of 1877 the council opened up the stone deposit at Waihirere, and laid down a tramline. At the outset the trucks were drawn by a small engine, which was driven by Fred Benson, with whom Bill Watt was associated as fireman. A larger engine was afterwards obtained, but it played havoc with the line. In the end, horses had to be employed. Waihirere stone was used for the foundations of the road betwen Makaraka and Ormond, and it has stood up to a constant stream of traffic. A lot of stone from the quarry also went into the foundations of Gisborne's main thoroughfare. When the quarry began to fail in 1885 another was opened up in the Patutahi district. This quarry proved a valuable source of supply, and is still (1949) being drawn upon. Supplementary supplies have, for some years, been obtained from Waerenga-o-Kuri.

During the winter of 1878 J. E. Hills considered himself lucky that page 398 “General” Jackson was able to take him and his family by bullock-wagon right on to his section at Patutahi. John Carron, who, with his wife and 11 children, settled there shortly afterwards, obtained some manuka poles, scrub, and rushes and quickly erected a rough shelter. He conducted a bullock-wagon service between Patutahi and Gisborne for some years, but it was often interrupted on account of the wretched state of the track. Francis Bee's four-wheeler could not be released from a bog near the Domain for some months in 1879. An essential part of a horseman's equipment in those days was a hammer and some staples to enable him to lower a farmer's fence (and repair it) when it became necessary to dodge a bad piece of road.