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

Development Under Difficulties

Development Under Difficulties

The Waiapu County, which then included the area which became Matakaoa County, was formed in 1890. Its first council comprised: E. H. Henderson, W. Milner, A. H. Wallis, Travers, Connolly and White. At a meeting at Port Awanui on 27/12/1890 Mr. Henderson was elected chairman.

In March, 1874, there were only 32 European residents on the East Coast above Uawa—9 males and 3 females in the Te Araroa district, and page 401 13 males and 7 females in Waiapu. By 1878 the number of pakehas had risen to 109. The 1906 census showed 858 Europeans and 2,611 Maoris. Previously the native census had been taken on a tribal basis. In 1926 (exclusive of Matakaoa) the figures were: Europeans, 1,809; Maoris, 3,292; and, in 1945: Europeans, 1,641; Maoris, 4,341, plus 3 per cent. representing residents absent on war service.

The Guide to Travellers section of the Poverty Bay Almanac for 1884 contained a warning to visitors to Waiapu not to attempt to pass round headlands where there was no track. Mention is made of a track from Waipiro Bay to the hot springs at Te Puia, and of another leading to Makarika. From Tuparoa a track led to the oil springs at Rotokautuku, branching off to Wai-o-matatini. There was also a track from Port Awanui to Wai-o-matatini. In October, 1884, the Poverty Bay Independent praised the development work which was being undertaken by Mr. J. N. Williams and Sir George Whitmore. “There is already a movement among the dry bones of Tawhiti,” it remarked, “and, to-day, the district is alive with the voices of labourers.” It added: “Smallholders could not possibly make any strides in the work of converting those wilds into pleasant and verdant pastures.”

It was not until 1894 that steps were taken to effect appreciable improvements to the old native track leading north from Tolaga Bay along the Hikuwai River. A contract was then let to D. Malone to form a road 6 feet wide for a distance of eight miles. C. H. McCracken and a mate squared the timber for several eight-foot-wide bridges. Manuka was used for the stringers, studs, caps and sills; manuka fascines, bound with wire, for the decking and sheathing; and logs for wheelguards. Some attention was next given to the track leading over the hill into Tokomaru Bay. When the council raised a loan of £10,000 for road works in 1901 very considerable improvements were made to the inland route. By February, 1902, drays could make the journey from Tolaga Bay to Tokomaru Bay.

Floods have, on several occasions, done considerable damage to roads and bridges. The greatest setback was suffered in May, 1916, when the overall damage was estimated at £30,000. Both the Tikitiki bridge (opened in February, 1914) and the Rotokautuku bridge (then only recently erected) were damaged. The Tikitiki bridge was again extensively damaged in February, 1917. A further flood in March, 1918, swept away four of the spans, and the site was abandoned.

Phenomenal rains at Tokomaru Bay on 21–22 January, 1917, caused the Mangahauini Stream to rise to a record level in a few hours. Part of W. G. Keane's home was undermined, A. N. Wilkins's wool-scouring works was demolished, and two bridges were swept away. At Waima, Edgar A. R. Louis (20 years old), who lived in a tent, was drowned. When Mr. and Mrs. Hanlon had to leave their home the husband took charge of their 18-months-old infant, but it slipped from his grasp when he became entangled in a fence, and was swept out to sea.

In the heyday of development on the East Coast shipping was a very important industry. All inward goods and outward produce had to be “surfed” at Tokomaru Bay, Waipiro Bay, Tuparoa, Port Awanui, Te Araroa and Hicks Bay. In the case of Tolaga Bay small craft could enter the river. Tolaga Bay, Tokomaru Bay, Te Araroa and Hicks Bay were, later, equipped with wharf facilities.