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

Uawa County

Uawa County

Early Handicap of Lack of Roads and Bridges

Uawa County (constituted on 10 December, 1918) had made two earlier attempts to break away from Cook County—in 1885, in conjunction with Waimata and Waiapu, and, in 1909, when it was proposed to establish a separate county under the name “Takirau County.” Although many of its ratepayers had complained bitterly of lack of roads and bridges, a proposal to raise £25,000 for such works was rejected in October, 1910, but only by the slender margin of 3 2/3 votes below the required three-fifths majority. The first council comprised: C. E. Smith, J. A. Moore and D. H. Hawkins (Arakihi Riding), F. Hutchinson and J. McNeil (Tauwhareparae), E. B. Boland (Hauiti) and J. S. Paterson (Mangatuna). At the first meeting (12/5/1919) Mr. Boland was elected chairman. One of its earliest decisions was that the county should secede from Gisborne Harbour District.

During the pioneering days a flat-bottomed boat was used to convey passengers across the Uawa River. Station cattle en route to Gisborne had to be swum over. Everybody with a boat turned out to give a hand, as the work provided a lot of good sport. In 1883 a punt (attached to an overhead cable and operated by means of a windlass) was established. W. Lockwood, senior, was placed in charge. Between 1885 and 1893, the ferryman was Enoch Kirk. He was credited with ferrying 2,400 sheep in four hours. The punt would carry a coach and five horses. A whaleboat was, at first, used to tender passengers and lighter cargo at Tolaga Bay. The service was conducted by W. Lockwood, J. A. Moore, H. Glover and W. E. Holder. Oil launches were afterwards obtained.

The first bridge over the Uawa River was built in 1905 at a cost of £6,000. For two years toll charges were levied—6d. per person and 1/-for each horse. W. E. Holder was the first custodian. On 12 May, 1916, a flood—the first of thirteen in twelve months—caused portion of the bridge to subside. Two more spans were wrecked during a flood in January, 1917. Another flood on 4 February, 1917, when 19 inches of rain fell in 18 hours, did further damage. So great was the rush of water that a camber over six feet high was formed at the mouth of the river. Until a new bridge became available the ferry service had again to be conducted. The second structure was carried away by a flood in February, 1938, but, fortunately, a concrete bridge had just been completed, and traffic was able to use it within 12 hours.

When the county was established, the coastal road between Gisborne and Tolaga Bay and a new bridge over the Pakarae River were under construction. In 1922 the ratepayers sanctioned the raising of a loan of £104,000 for road and bridge works (including the metalling of the Uawa page 405 portion of the Gisborne-Tolaga Bay main highway and improvements to the section linking Uawa and Waiapu). A crushing plant was installed at Mangatuna and a fleet of five motor lorries was procured.

Chairmen: E. B. Boland, 1919–30; J. McNeil, 1930–43; H. R. Irving, 1943–.

Engineers: J. P. Guthrie, 1919–30; G. W. King, 1930–38; C. Percy, 1939–.

County Clerks: F. T. Robinson, 1919–24; H. L. Tempest, 1924–47; A. B. Smith, 1947–48; R. Tregurtha, 1948–.


The site of Tolaga Bay township (252 acres) was bought by the Crown on 10 March, 1875, for £505. It was then covered with gorse. In 1904 the name Buckley (after Sir Patrick Buckley, Colonial Secretary in the Seddon Cabinet) was officially bestowed upon the township. The residents preferred to retain the name Tolaga Bay, which Captain Cook gave to the adjacent inlet. Important streets bear names which also serve to commemorate the great navigator's visit.

With 52 white residents, and as many more within easy distance, Tolaga Bay was the largest European centre on the East Coast in 1875. The population of Uawa County in 1926 was: Europeans, 1,074; Maoris, 592; total, 1,666. In 1945 there were 749 Europeans and 754 Maoris; total, 1,503, plus 3 per cent. in respect of residents absent on war activities. The gross capital value of the county in 1945 was £1,257,536.

A distressing tragedy occurred on 11 June, 1887, whilst Mrs. Enoch Kirk and three of her children were being brought ashore from s.s. Australia. Harry Glover was in charge of the surf boat, and his crew comprised Rawiri and Ropihana Tautau and Harry Hiutau. Inside the bar the boat shipped a wave and capsized. Glover got Mrs. Kirk ashore, but she expired. Rawiri Tautau saved himself. A boat manned by Constable M. G. Stagpoole, Joe James and Sam Gilman went to the rescue of the others, but it also capsized. Gilman swam ashore. The constable lashed Hiutau to his upturned boat, and they were picked up by a boat sent from the steamer. In addition to Mrs. Kirk and her children—Nellie (aged 9 years), Ralph (2 years) and Maud (1 year)—Joe James and Ropihana Tautau also lost their lives. Constable Stagpoole was awarded a silver medal by the Royal Humane Society of Australia.

On 25 January, 1923, the ratepayers of Tolaga Bay harbour district, by 115 votes to 22, sanctioned the raising of a loan not to exceed £100,000 to provide a ferroconcrete wharf, etc., to accommodate coastal vessels. The wharf and jetty are 2,150 feet in length and the depth at low tide is 17 feet. Harbourmaster: J. M. Fraser.


Andrew Reeves (born at Moffatt, Dumfriesshire, in 1832) reached Wellington in 1857, bought a horse, and rode to Hatuma (Hawke's Bay), where he entered the employment of, and became manager for, Purvis Russell. In 1863 he took up a property near Wairoa. Mr. and Mrs. Reeves went to Tolaga Bay in December, 1865, and were the first white couple to settle there permanently. For many years Mr. Reeves held, under lease, blocks aggregating 6,000 acres. He had great difficulty in securing a perfect title to Wharekaka, but his rights were fully established by the Validation Court. Over a lengthy period he was the only Justice of the Peace at Tolaga Bay. He held a seat on Cook County Council for several terms. His death occurred on 5 November, 1903.

For her invaluable services in the early days in cases of sickness, Mrs. Margaret (Granny) Lockwood, of Tolaga Bay, is still held in kindly remembrance by many families on the East Coast. She attended cases from Pakarae to Waipiro Bay. Her ability, especially in the role of midwife, was widely acknowledged. She was a daughter of Robert Espie and Ani Umutopua, and was born at Mawhai in 1839. Her first husband was Abraham Moore, of Auckland. After his death she married his partner, William Lockwood (born at Rhode Island, U.S.A.), and, in 1875, they moved to Tolaga Bay. She died on 15 December, 1932, leaving over 100 descendants.

Captain William Henry Glover—to the Maoris, Karawa—was born at Newcastle-on-Tyne. Prior to settling at Tolaga Bay in 1855 he kept a store at Waipare. He was the district's pioneer sheepfarmer (1864), and its first publican (1866). A daughter, Lucy, married Edward Robson, who had interests in the Delta block, and held a seat on Cook County Council for several years. Henry Glover (born 1857, died 1942) was a noted boatman. Captain Glover died on 24 November, 1881.

Edward Murphy (born at St. Kilda, Victoria, in 1845) obtained a page 406 lease of Paremata (Tolaga Bay) in 1873. He moved, with his family, back to Australia in 1882, but, in 1884, returned and took up Panikau, which was then in its virgin state. In 1891 he also became one of the original lessees of Tauwhareparae. Whilst he resided at Tolaga Bay he was appointed a Justice of the Peace. He made his home at Manutuke in 1884. For some years he served on Cook County Council. Among his benefactions was the Bethany (Edward Murphy Memorial) Hospital at Gisborne, which was opened on 14 December, 1920. He died at Auckland on 27 June, 1919.

Henry Williams (born in Wales in 1845) migrated with his parents to Australia in 1853. He came over to Wellington in 1865, and was apprenticed to the tannery business. In 1875 he moved to Poverty Bay, where he engaged in storekeeping and butchering. Four years later he went on to Tolaga Bay and took up a property about seven miles up the river. With a partner (J. Morris) he opened a general store and butchery at Tolaga Bay. In the early 1880's he acquired Taumatarata, which was then in solid bush. He added Waiomoko to this holding, and named the whole property Waiomoko. Mr. Williams moved to Gisborne in 1912. He was in his 90th year when he died on 26 October, 1934.

Edward Brabazon Boland began his public service in 1907, when he was elected to represent Tolaga Bay riding on Cook County Council. He was the first chairman of Uawa County Council, and also of Tolaga Bay Harbour Board.

Michael Mullooly—known to one and all as “Micky”—was the most interesting resident of Tolaga Bay in his day. Born in Ireland in 1836, he tried his luck on the Ballarat goldfields and at Gabriel's Gully. He served in the East Coast War, and was one of the guard at the Chatham Islands when Te Kooti and his band escaped. In 1873 he opened the Sea View Hotel at Tolaga Bay, providing his guests with warm beds and square meals, without any frills. One morning a guest complained that his boots had not been cleaned, although he had left them outside his bedroom door. “Micky” could hardly believe that any sane person would have taken such a grave risk of losing his footgear. “You are very lucky,” he told him, “that you found them there in the morning!” What he had in mind was, of course, that some of his native patrons were noted for their light-fingered habits. He has been described as “a little man who revelled in litigation, but was apt to grasp at the shadow and lose the substance.” His guests could always depend upon being regaled with his version of his latest tussle in the law courts. He died on 13 June, 1912.