Monday, 17 April 2017

Opoutere Youth Hostel, Eastern Seaboard Coromandel Peninsula - some history of place

Entrance to Opoutere Youth Hostel near Wharekawa Harbour  - photo by Chris Ball April 2017 

Today one of two native schools established in 1908 sits in the grounds of the Opoutere Youth Hostel.   The years have seen this area evolve and many visitors come from all over the world to this special place - enjoying the peaceful

Back in 1908 at this small settlement on the Eastern Seaboard Coromandel Peninsula, Wharekawa native school,was opened- called such because it was near the Wharekawa Harbour.

Looking from the shore out on Wharekawa Harbour - photo by Chris Ball 2009

This school came about as the result of a request from the local Maori community and opened with 31 pupils. Several years later after opening the Wharekawa native school had a name change to Opoutere native school. Adjacent to the Native school building was a school house where the headmaster and his wife lived.

1912 Mrs C Grindley was  recorded appointed assistant teacher at Opoutere Native School. ( AJHR 1912) 1915 Rev. George Grindley was recorded headmaster and Mrs C Grindley assistant teacher. From the AJHRs and Papers Past can be seen that the Grindley's were teachers at Opoutere Native School until about 1924, Reverend George Grindley was a member of the Native School Teachers' Association, rising to the position of Vice President of this organisation. 
Wharekawa Native School with School House - name changed later to Opoutere Native School
in Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1909 Session II, E-03EDUCATION: NATIVE SCHOOLS. [In continuation of E.-2, 1908.]
In 1924 Grindley was recorded as being at Te Hapua Native School in the "far North."

 From 1924 William H Statham was recorded as headmaster of Opoutere Native School with his wife Francis being assistant teacher. The  Native School Teachers' Association of 1928 saw William H Statham appointed to the executive committee.

First Opoutere Native School building as it  is in April 2017 - photo Chris Ball
First Opoutere Native School building indoors used as a Hostel Bunkhouse in April 2017 - photo Chris Ball

In  AJHR 1930, it was noted  that Opoutere amongst a number of other native schools "school-grounds are the pride and inspiration of the settlement"  This would have been the community' s families contributing to upkeep of the grounds also. By then Douglas G Ball  had been  appointed Inspector of Maori Schools in 1929. Ball became Senior Inspector of Maori Schools eight years later,  1950  appointed Assistant Director of Education, and 1961 to 1971  Chairman of the Maori Education Foundation.

First Opoutere Native School building in April 2017 - photo Chris Ball

Ball  in   AJHR of 1930:  " Methods of Teaching. Inspector D. G. Ball, who comes to the Native School Service direct from the work of organizing teacher in public schools, offers the following remarks on the methods of teaching in Native schools The methods of teaching employed in the lower division of the majority of the schools are intelligent and well applied. Here it is that the teachers are fully cognizant of the importance of oral teaching and practical application. A greater variety of teaching devices and the utilization of more home-made material, pictures, and games would result not only in increased interest and a brighter class-room atmosphere, but also in raising materially the standard of work. In many cases the methods employed in the standard classes are of a much less satisfactory nature. "

It is said that Douglas Ball on travel to the  two native schools of  the  Eastern Seaboard,  caught a train to Waihi and then it was horseback from there  to Mataora and on to Wharekawa and Opoutere native school. Horseback to the remote rural areas was the preferred transport and Ball, it was said,  sometimes mistaken for a drover rather than a school inspector.

It was during Ball's tenure as Senior Inspector that William Statham was to retire. Statham's impending retirement was reported in the Bay of Plenty Times in 1933 indicating a move to Otumoetai near Tauranga.  During WWII Statham was recorded Captain, Home Guard No 3 Battalion and an easter camp was reported: 

" The Waihi No. 3 Battalion of the Home Guard, including Katikati and Waikino units, went into camp for four days during Easter. Major W. H. Stainton, M.C.. battalion commander, was in charge of the camp, the arrangements for which were efficiently carried out by Captain I. T. Fallwell and Lieutenant E. H. McCarthny. The men thoroughly appreciated the course of intense training, which included night manoeuvres. Sunday was open day for visitors. The Whangamata and Opoutere sections of No. 3 Battalion were also in camp during Easter, Captain Statham being in command." ( Auckland Star 29 April 1942)

Group of Pupils Wharekawa Native School
In Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives,
1909 Session II, E-03 EDUCATION : NATIVE SCHOOLS. [In continuation of E.-2, 1908.]
courtesy National Library NZ
Many of the families of the pupils worked in the area farming,  gum digging, in the nearby " Luck at Last " goldmine, and for logging contractors such as Leyland and O'Brien, working the kauri for the NZ Kauri Timber Company. 

In 1908, when the Opoutere Native school opened , there was a thriving small community, with a store and bakery, which supplied the miners and forestry workers. Later years, with the closure of gold mines in the area, it was farming and forestry, with the New Zealand Forest Service and radiata pine forests and nursery.  

 Family names amongst those early pupils of 1908  were McGregor, Durrant, Savage and Hutchison. In 1910 two years after the opening of the Opoutere Native school, the NZ Towns  Directory , Opoutere , recorded along with those families, the names of Edward Withers and Victor Gordon, miners, John Antoney, storekeeper and Anthony Edwardson, seaman. It was said that Opoutere Native School had some volunteer help from the " Luck at Last " miners in the establishment of the school and school house in 1908.

Maori Gum-diggers in Bell, James MacIntosh. 1914. The Wilds of Maoriland. London: MacMillan.

 Panoramic view of the Whangamata Gold Corporation's new stamper battery and associated works at Wharekawa 'Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-18990630-5-2
" Luck at Last"

Rafting Logs from main booms to store, Wharekawa, Auckland
Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1905 Session I, C-06 THE TIMBER INDUSTRY OF NEW ZEALAND (EXTRACTS FROM REPORTS BY COMMISSIONERS OF CROWN LANDS ON, TOGETHER WITH TABLES, VIEWS, AND MAPS). [Prepared by direction of the Honourable the Minister of Lands.] courtesy National Library NZ

In 1935 two pupils of Opoutere Native School hit headlines when a special and rare mussel dredge was found near the school.  P Hutchinson and K McGregor are said to have presented their find to the Auckland Museum. 
About 1953 Opoutere Native School moved to near what was then known as Paritu further up the Wharekawa Valley and now called Opoutere School in 2017 and near the Tawatawa Hall - both on State Highway 25. The Auckland Tramping Club ( amongst them club members Sykes, Jones, Pascoe,  Stewart, Latter ) are said to have had a working bee at the old Opoutere native school , readying it for what was to become a Youth Hostel accommodation.

Youth Hostel Opoutere

Over the years from 1953 to 2017, the Youth Hostel became a popular place for overseas tourists,tramping groups, school groups, and cub and scout groups. 

In the 1990's DOC established  a dotterel project with a paid ranger over the summer months. Helen Stewart ( known as " the bird lady " )  a DOC wildlife ranger  and others assisted the paid ranger with the project. In 2002 Karen Griffin , Opoutere YHA  manager on retiring after 25 years, noted that the Dotterel colony drew overseas visitors with the DOC Ranger running education programmes on the Dotterel Colony.

 Today in 2017  this colony continues to draw visitors to the spit to view the dotterels.  Apart from tourism, the many other groups found this area a good base, including the cub and scout groups who had fun canoeing, kayaking, and as many groups exploring nearby Maungaruawahine.
Yes this place, where the Opoutere Youth Hostel has much heritage and many stories held by many people of its past. It's sense of place is woven into the fabric and a part of the past NZ History on the Eastern Seaboard Coromandel Peninsula and our own families history.

Today in April 2017 there has been talk of the Opoutere Youth Hostel closing and a petition circulating - hence why this blog for the history of this place has been written.
Entrance to track to Dotterel Colony on spit at Opoutere  April 2017 - photo Chris Ball
Reference Sources:
  • Bay of Plenty Times   10 May 1933   Page 2
  • Auckland Star   8 April 1935   Page 8
  • Auckland Star  29 April 1942   Page 5   WAIHI HOME GUARD
  • Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1912 Session II, H-05 APPOINTMENTS UNDER THE CIVIL SERVICE AMENDMENT ACT, 1908 (RETURN OF).
  • Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1915 Session I, E-03 EDUCATION: NATIVE SCHOOLS. [In continuation of E.-3, 1914.]
  • Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1924 Session I, E-03 EDUCATION OF NATIVE CHILDREN. [In continuation of E.-3, 1923.]
  •  Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1930 Session I, E-03 EDUCATION OF NATIVE CHILDREN. (In continuation of E.-3, 1929.)
  • John Barrington. 'Ball, Douglas George', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 18 April 2017)
  • The falafels may be going but the yoghurt lives on accessed 18/04/2017

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