Saturday, 13 July 2019

Kauri felling and logging Tairua Valley

Majestic Kauri - giant of them all photo courtesy Chris Ball 2014
Giants of the Forest - kauri

There have been many discussions recently on the topic of kauri die back and kauri felling and logging in the Tairua valley amongst friends and family. Felling and logging of those forest giants- kauri - was one of the main occupations in the second half of the 19th century in this valley. Many of the old photos from  the 1880's show hills devoid of vegetation, the giant kauri gone, as this photo below.

Scene in the vicinity of Tairua, with a boom on the Tairua River. Ref: PAColl-5521-11. Courtesy Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22701140
There are a number of old  photos of logs at the wharf near the sawmill, up the valley at about Green point, or in the upper reaches Tairua River  such as the photo below. 
 Showing kauri logs in an upper reach of the Tairua river, with a woman on a horse and men standing by the logs.  courtesy Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19141217-53-2 
A number of photos  taken by William Beattie, a photographer working for the Auckland Weekly News in 1914,  showed kauri logging activity. This then was a diminishing occupation in the Tairua Valley, which was giving way to farming along with a dairy factory at Tairua in the 1920's. George Turnbull Niccol had by 1914 acquired large acreage (said to be nearly the whole of Hikuai). Niccol, as an outcome of  the death of his only son during  WWI, sold in 1921 to the Government for returned soldier  farms, said to be good cattle fattening country.

                                                   Hikuai farmland 2015 - still much as it looked in 1914 photo courtesy Chris Ball
 Recently researching Papers Past NZ National Library found  a short article about one of these giant trees of the forest being cut at Tairua back in 1883 . The Southland Times reported : -

" A Monster Kauri.— A kauri tree lately cut on the Tairua land of the Auckland Sash and Door Company measured 42 feet in girth and 70 feet from the ground to the  first branch. It contained about 40,000 feet of timber." ( Southland Times 23/12/1883)
This tree would have been almost as large as another at the Ohio Creek, Upper Tararu, Thames,  commented on the previous year in 1882. To give an idea of the size of these kauri from Tairua and Tararu , the following is a illustration from Kirk's book published in 1889 of the Tararu kauri:-

                   Illustration in Kirk, T. F.L.S. The Forest Flora of New Zealand. Wellington:  G Didsbury Government Printers, 1889
                              Also onlne  at National Library New Zealand

Felling, logging and floating - down to sawmill and sea

In 1864 a sawmill opened at Tairua - no roads in those days so it was by a number of means - corduroy roads, tramways, wooden aqua ducts, hauled by bullocks, floated down creeks and the Tairua river using constructed dams, the utilisation of rainfall in these dams and transport by coastal vessels of cargoes of kauri to other ports in New Zealand and over to Australian Ports.
  Wooden aquaduct for transporting logs, Tairua. Ref: PAColl-5521-24. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. records/22573924
At times a lack of sufficient rainfall meant that the dams could not be tripped to float the logs down to the Tairua River or move the logs on from the booms at Green point on the Tairua River. With gold mining and the timber industry both utilizing every bit of water available during the late 1800's and early 1900's, rainfall and no droughts were key to operations. January 1885 saw bush fires cause damage to dams and houses. Drought causing serious fires in 1897 on the Eastern Seaboard caused much damage to the bush contractors operations up the Wharekawa, Tairua and Whangamata Valley's. Particularly to cut logs and dams of well known bush contractor Leyland and O'Brien. Rain falling on the Tairua valley in February 1908 ,broke the bush fires and another drought.  

Back in 1891, reputed to be one of the largest dams on the Coromandel, was built at the Wires, near the Tairua river source.  Leyland and O'Brien worked the bush in this area and floated the huge kauri logs down the Tairua river to sawmill and sea.
                         Tripping no.17 Dam, Gregory, George, photographer,1890s-1912,PH-ALB-143
                                     courtesy Auckland Museum  Please do not copy
The working life of bush contractors and their bush workers was harsh and dangerous in the Tairua Valley. The New Zealand Census of 1881 males far out numbered females in the bush.

CENSUS OF NEW ZEALAND 1881   3rd April, 1881 
                                                                            Statistics New Zealand 
In 1878  bush contractor R Webb, bush contractor became part of a committee at a meeting held of residents and bushmen of the valley to further a medical man n their midst. This  because of their concerns over the  high accident rate and grueling trips to the hospital at Thames. Both for the injured "bushman" and the team ,carrying by stretcher, across creeks and rough country via Neavesville to Puriri and on to Thames. By 1883 a Doctor Sinnock was living in Tairua.

The nature of the work felling, cutting and moving the kauri logs to the sea or sawmill at Tairua. Large kauri, dense bush in parts, broken slopes, heavy laboring work with axe and cross cut saws.

                                               15.—CROSS-CUTTING- A KAURI New Zealand Herald 23 April 1887 Page 16
Use of timber jacks which moved the kauri logs to corduroy roads or dams and creeks. Serious bush accidents continued into the 1880's and still, despite a doctor living in Tairua by then , required transport across to Thames Goldfields Hospital. The Thames Goldfields Hospital was also concerned at the number, seriousness and length of hospitalization these accidents were costing.
The Thames Advertiser reporting on the Thames Goldfields Hospital monthly meeting, wrote:-
" Mr Ehrenfried said that about twelve months ago he had drawn attention number of accidents occurring in the neighbouring bushes and sawmills. He had now been able to get a list of the cases of this nature treated in the hospital, and found that there had been as many as 30 within the past twelve months, Accidents of this kind were generally very severe, the sufferers often staying in the institution as long as three months He thought it would only be fair to ask tho sawmill companies to contribute to the cost of treating these  patients, and he thought the matter only required to be represented to them to secure liberal donations, the companies were in a position to pay dividends it was unfair, not to use a stronger term, that their maimed and sick should be palmed off upon a local institution, which was less able to afford it, He found that the Tairua mill alone contributed one fourth of the total, number of accidents, He moved that a letter be written to the companies drawing attention to tho position of affairs, and soliciting their contributions.—Seconded by Mr Radford, 'and carried." ( Thames Advertiser, 14/12/1882)

              Two men work at rolling large kauri logs through light bush. Gregory, George. (n.d.) Skiding [sic] logs to creek. Auckland War Memorial Museum neg. C1639. courtesy Auckland Museum   Please Do Not Copy

 There were a number of bush contractors in the Upper Tairua Valley - names synonymous with kauri logging along with the " bushmen" who worked for them. Along with Leyland and O'brien were Robert and Thomas Webb, Fagan, Darrow, Kilgour, John Magill. Faithful and McConnell gained the reputation of being one of the largest bush contractors in the Tairua Valley - in fact in the North Island.
 They moved around the Coromandel Peninsula and up North. Contracts were worked for the Union Steam Saw, Moulding and Sash Door Company Limited, providing kauri for the mills at Mechanics Bay, Auckland, Aratapu and Tairua. That was until the giant  Kauri Timber Company absorbed the mills, bush and shipping vessels in July 1888. Then it became  contracts for this company.

                                                  Thames Star 6 December 1912 Page 1
                               Courtesy Papers Past, National Library New Zealand
 These bush contractors also gained contracts supplying, the then, Public Works Department and private companies with sleepers for railways and tramways. As well as " breaking out " contracts up the Tairua Valley and the Tairua river branches, the Kauri Timber Company also called for tenders at Te Karo, Lynch Creek and towards Whenuakite , Coroglen and Whitianga. Such as the advertisment appearing in the New Zealand Herald: - " Tenders for the Felling and Delivery of 2,600,000 superficial feet, more or less"  ( NZ Herald, 15/09/1916)


       Bush - between Tairua and Mercury Bay, N.Z. [picture] Charles Rudd 1849-1901 photographer.( 1892- 1902)
                                       photo courtesy State Lbrary Victoria, Australia  PLEASE DO NOT OPY
It would seem that droughts and fire led to a logging operation moving superficial timber to the sea via timber jacking, tramways and floating to waiting scows and other shipping vessels at sea. The following photograph was taken by William Beattie on his visit to the Tairua Valley and appeared in the Auckland Weekly News in December 1914 of the logging operation at Te Karo ( Sailor's Grave)

   Showing logs being lifted into the sea near Tairua, preparatory to rafting them to the mill. With an inset photograph of a man holding a large saw  Photo courtesy Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19141217-48-2

It is known that Bert Collins bush contractor, who later gained Kauearanga Valley cotracts,  spent a short time on the Te Karo contract. Bert's other brother and  Tudor also had links with bush contracts in rhe Whitianga area. Tudor married Annie McLeod from Whitianga whose sister Jean married Malcolm Niccol who was involved with dairy factories in Tairua and Whitianga. Family interlinks were also common amongst these bush contractors and bushmen for the communities in which they lived were small and social.

David Wilton, undertaking a survey of HMS Tortoise camp sites in 2015 with Neville Ritchie Archaeologist,  found timber boom structures that concurred with Collins account in Reed's " The new story of kauri." The HMS Tortoise survey study can be found on the Treasury Journal of The Coromandel Heritage Trust.

The Te Karo operation was not long before kauri logging halted in the Tairua valley- leaving only a few hundred hectares remaining, of this fine majestic tree. The Tairua Sawmill closed doors and timber gave way to butter fat and dairy farming. By 1935 a new species of forest was being planted on the hill slopes of the Tairua valley to replace the barren slopes where one the mighty kauri stood. This
was pinus radiata - a new part of the past New Zealand History of this valley. Recent years have seen groups such as kauri 2000 and school groups planting kauri for future generations. Also the establishment of a WW1 Memorial Forest where plantings have also taken  place- to remember some of those decendants of those bushmen and the bushmen who went away themselves in WW1  That is another story of part of our past  NZ History of this valley.

          A new life for Kauri tree in WW1 Memorial Forest , Tangataroria Lane Pauanui photo Courtesy Chris Ball 2015

Note: In the 1800's different terms were used for occupation in the New Zealand Forest. The forest back then was called the bush. Bush contractors and bushmen were the people " breaking out" the bush. There were the bushmen ( now loggers, and sivicultural).

Reference Source:
  • Bennett, Francis, Tairua, Arrow Printing Limited, Morrinsville, reprint soft cover 2004
  • Cory Wright, Phyllis, “Jewel by the Sea”, Printcorp Ltd, Tauranga, 1988
  • Kirk, T. F.L.S. The Forest Flora of New Zealand. Wellington:  G Didsbury Government Printers, 1889
  •  A. H. Reed  The new story of the kauri , by . Wellington, 1964
  • Williamson, Beverley M, Whangamata -100 Years of Change, Goldfields Print Ltd, 1988
  • Williamson, Beverley, Philip and Madeline Williamson of Whangamata, 1981
  • 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.] Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1905 Session I, C-06
  • New Zealand Herald  27 December 1878 Page 6 TAIRUA.
  • Southland Times 23 December 1882 Page 2
  • Thames Advertiser 2 September 1882 Page 2
  • Thames Advertiser 14 December 1882 Page 3
  • Hawke's Bay Herald 28 January 1885 Page 3
  • Star 8 January 1897 Page 1
  • Auckland Star 14 February 1908   Page 5 
  • Thames Star 6 December 1912 Page 1
  • New Zealand Herald 15 September 1916 Page 10
  • New Zealand Herald 2 October 1937 Page 16

Sunday, 28 April 2019

" Gold in them thar Hills" Mine Tour Whangamata, Tairua - on the Coromandel's Eastern Seaboard

" Theres gold in them thar hills "- looking toward old gold mine back of ranges Whangamata- Tairua - photo Chris Ball 2017

Into the  1890's, there was a revival on the goldfields on the Coromandel's Eastern Seaboard.
H A Gordon ( Henry Andrew)  Inspecting Engineer of the New Zealand Mines Department in 1896  found there had been an increase of  miners, and a great deal of prospecting is being carried on between Waitekauri and Tairua. The success of the cyanide process for extracting gold was showing good results, with the Waihi Gold Mining Company adopting the process in 1894  and decision to construct the Victoria Battery in  1896  ( what was then, the largest quartz crushing plant in Australasia.)
During the 1890's, a  number of overseas  " experts", amongst them Mr. Schmeisser and Dr. Vogelsang. Mr. Schmeisser, a geologist, inspected mining properties on the Peninsula goldfields in 1896. Mr. Provis, local mine representative at Tasmania for the Anglo continental company is said to have visited the gold mines at Tairua, Komata, Whangamata, Karangahake, Te Aroha, Waitekauri and Waihi, also in 1896. In this year James Park, Thames School of Mines and H A Gordon Inspecting Engineer for NZ Mines Department were head hunted by the Anglo Continental gold mining syndicate and left their positions to join the London based syndicate. By 1902 Park  and Gordon had moved on and continued their mining interests in New Zealand with Gordon becoming first president of the Australasian Institute Mining Engineers  in 1903.

By 1899 a local syndicate  headed by Henry Hopper Adams purchased the Tairua Broken Hills goldmining company from the  London based company who had purchased the mine  originally in 1895. Added to Tairua Broken Hills  goldmining company was a syndicate for the  Golden Belt at Neavesville,  Adams acting as Superintendent and managing director. At a meeting of shareholders in August 1899 the first directors appointed were Messrs L D Nathan, Thos Morrin, W Gorrie,  B. J. Greenslade, John Hague Smith, Mr H. Gilfillan, junr,, legal manager.

Drawn by C L Kerry .NEAVESVILLE, TAIRUA. Taken from the New Zealand Graphic, 30 May, 1896, p621  Courtesy of  Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-18960530-621-1
 The drawing above shows what the township of Neavesville looked like in those years and later in 1899 when the Golden Belt gold mining company was purchased by the syndicate.
 The following  four years were busy activity for all the mines at Tairua and Whangamata. Roading on the Coromandel's Eastern seaboard was non existent across the range at the turn of the century. There were tracks across from Puriri and Hikuai  but these were trails used for mail and mining supplies that could be carried by horses. EG food supplies, The mining companies relied on coastal shipping to bring the heavy mine machinery, tramway railway iron around the coast. Up to Broken Hills and Golden Belt  as far as the Company wharf at the landing. From there it was conveyed up to the mines  In the instant of Tairua Broken Hills  a boiler, engine, and other machinery, a quantity of railway iron, bricks, and timber for the new battery at Broken Hills, some 80 tons. Below is a photo of the Golden Hills goldmining company battery which was near by to Broken Hills gold mining company battery. Although deserted by February 1914 when the photo appeared in the Auckland Weekly News, a good image is given of what the mine battery operation of  upper Tairua Puketui valley looked like when operating.
Showing the old deserted Golden Hill Battery, upper Tairua, Coromandel country. Taken from the supplement to the Auckland Weekly News 05 FEBRUARY 1914 p044 courtesy  Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19140205-44-3
By 1906 the mines of Tairua Broken Hills gold mining company, Golden Belt gold  mining company, Mananu Gold mining Company and the Auckland Gold Corporation were operating,

During this period a number of directors of the gold mining companies had made a number of inspections of their mines in the Tairua  and Whangamata valleys.

In April 1906 H.H. Adams  arranged a " grand tour" of a number of mines over several days  Adams chartered the Northern Steam Ship Company vessel ss Aupouri to take invited passengers   -in the mines to Great Barrier, Whangamata and Tairua. Recorded amongst those on board were: H. H. Adams, Mrs. and Miss Adams, and Masters Adams (2), also Mr. H. Adams, Mr. and Mrs. W. Burton, Misses Westwood, Thomas, and Smith, Mrs. R. S. Bush, Messrs. R. Mitchelson, C. Hanson, M. Ransom, S. C. Tewslev, H. Gorrie, D. E. Clerk, M. Casey, B Owen, and  W. Frater.
ss Aupouri - the well known Northern Steam Ship Company steamer at Whangamata

First stop was Great Barrier and the Sunbeam Gold Mine where in true tradition for new batteries, Mrs Adams  performed  the ceremonial honours, smashing a bottle of liquor on the five stampers as they started.
Following a tour of the Sunbeam, it was off to Whangamata, fishing on the way and arriving early next morning. The mines were about seven miles up in the hills. H.H. Adams with superb further arrangements had a four horse brake and a number of saddle horses to convey the " tour party"  to the mines.
Adam's tour party mounted and waiting to leave. ss Aupouri centre back of photo
 The Auckland Gold Corporation's property Mananu mine ( formerly the Wentworth mine ) was visited. Then it was back on Aupouri  that evening for the tour on to Tairua. Fishing was the past time the next day. An activity always popular with the mine company directors, on many previous inspections, of the mines of Coromandel's Eastern Seaboard. Hapuka, schnapper and shark were reported caught off the coast.

A very early start up the Tairua River via two Northern Steam  Ship Company launches drew much interest and comment over the scenery along with noting at the time few logs in the booms. Reaching the landing saw a breakfast stop at the Tairua Hotel there.

01 February 1902  New Zealand Graphic by Walrond " Graphic" photo

Then via  horse to Tairua Broken Hills 20 stamper goldmine, the mill being worked by water power, along with  stamper beds composed of concrete.

Concrete Battery Relics Tairua Broken Hills Goldmine - photo courtesy ASB
Following the stop at Tairua Broken Hills goldmining operation it was on to the 40 stamper goldmine of Golden Belt, Neavesville. Also with stamper beds of concrete. ( H.H. Adams described this as the first of its kind in the "colony") ( ie. colony of New Zealand.

Then it was the return journey to Aupouri  and from here back to the Great Barrier. A visit to the Barrier Reefs Mine which was being worked by he syndicate that purchased the original mine. Finally back home to Auckland after the five day tour.

Footnote: To read more in depth account of the Mine Tour 1906 - newspaper articles - see below reference sources 18/04/1906 - 25/04/1906

Reference Source:
      Trove, National Library Australia:

       Papers Past, National Library NZ: :