Sunday, 23 March 2014

A Telegraph Across the Ranges

A Telegraph Across the Ranges

There were two telegraph lines constructed in Whangamata Area, the first of European 19th Century technology across this land - long before there were any roads in. The two telegraph lines providing communication with the outside world were what was known as " The Wires" or today " The Old Wires" constructed completed in 1872  and the latter in 1916 -  the “Settler’s Line.”

“The Wires” or “ The Old Wires”

It was the end of the Waikato Campaign of the New Zealand Wars, the Tauranga campaign and during the era of skirmishes with Te Kooti and “Hauhau”. There was much discussion about having a telegraph connecting Wellington with Auckland. The puzzle was which route would the Telegraph Line follow. Lawn wrote:
" In 1867 there were only two telegraph lines in the North Island, one was from Auckland to the Waikato and was under the control of the military authorities. The other was from Wellington to Napier. In 1868, Mr. E.H. Bold was commissioned by the Government to survey and negotiate a route and construct a telegraph line from Napier to Tauranga, via Taupo.( Lawn, 1977,part I—III, p 105)

Between the Waikato and King Country lay the Aukati boundary. The King Country then was largely unexplored and unknown terrain. In 1868 the Daily Southern Cross reported on the Annual Report of Mr. John Wall, Commissioner of Telegraphs who said:
 “From this point there are two routes proposed for extensions northwards, One is by the coast to Poverty Bay, East Cape , Opotiki, Maketu, Tauranga, Whangamata, and from thence across the country to Mercer, where it will join the line already made. From Tauranga also, it is proposed to make a line to Cambridge. “(Daily Southern Cross, 15/08/1868)

   From Summit Wentworth Track looking Northwards   Photo 1975  JM Stewart collection
Surveys of the route, negotiations and plans continued by officials. In 1871it was reported that meetings with Māori at Ohinemuri had been successful with the majority in favour of opening the telegraph line. (Taranaki Herald, 28 /10 1871)

By March 1872 it was reported in New Zealand Newspapers including the Daily Southern Cross, good progress in construction of the telegraph line with nine miles crossing dense bush from Hikutaia across the ranges being laid out by Mr. C Maling, the engineer. (Daily Southern Cross, 12/02/1872) 
It was also reported that up to 100 men of Mr. Floyd’s staff and other contractors were involved in the construction work. Early March the telegraph line from Grahamstown to Hikutaia was reported opened.

Completion of “the Wires” telegraph line saw connection between Wellington and Auckland.

“The Settler’s Line”

The Bay of Plenty Times reported in 1888 that the Whangamata Goldfields would shortly be connected to Katikati by telegraph and a mail service established from the Thames. (Bay Of Plenty Times 07/04/1888) 

It was around this year that there was renewed interest in the Whangamata Goldfields and the Goldwater Claim up the Wentworth Valley. Interest in the Goldfields were to continue and into the new century a farming settlement established in this valley.
In 1904 a diversion of the Hikutaia Katitikati line via Waihi was proposed. With the original “Wires” telegraph line having fallen into disuse and disrepair, a new single wire telegraph line was built by settlers at Hikutaia to provide communication with the mill up on the plateau known as “The Wires” area. (Here is the Headwaters of the Tairua River.) 
 At  Headwaters, Tairua River Photo 1975 JM Stewart collection
In 1916 Whangamata settlers also joined in construction of a telephone line, using poles from the bush and second hand wire. This was part of the line to Hikutaia from Wentworth Valley, crossing the “Old Wires” track. Typical of settlers lines constructed in those days, it was a party line.

Reference Source

1. Lawn, C. A. F. N. Z. I. S. The Pioneer Land Surveyors of New Zealand. Parts I-III. Auckland: N.Z.I.S., 14, October, 1977.
2. McCollum, M.R., and J.S. Sphinks. Hikutaia – 2000 ‘ An Interlude In Time. Paeroa, N.Z.: Goldfields Print Ltd., 2000.
3. Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand