Thursday, 14 March 2019

Logging, Camping and Tramping in the Kauaeranga near Thames

From Totara Camp looking towards Te Kohatu-whakairi-a-Ngatoroirangi ( Table Mountain) 2010 - photo courtesy Chris Ball
Seems always at this time of the year am sorting photos. At the moment it is those of the Kauaeranga Valley near Thames. Most of the bush in this valley today could be said to be secondary growth. There are a number of camping grounds up the valley, administered by DOC ( Department of Conservation) The Kauaeranga Valley is also the route taken to the pinnacles - a famous and world renown tramping ( aka hiking ) track.   

Swing bridge on the Pinnacles  track aka walk - photo courtesy Chris Ball 2009
  By 1872  the crushing machines  on the Thames Goldfields had increased. Along with a desperate need for more water to drive these and to supply what had become a large town. A water race bringing water to the Thames Goldfields from the Kauaeranga River was built in sections over the next four years. In October 1875, The Mount Ida Chronicle reported on construction of section 1 ( James Heron) and section 2 ( Messrs R and K Smith) : - 

" The timber for the framework is all of kauri, cut in the bush along the course of the race. All the kauri is supposed to belong to the Shortland Sawmill Company. In fact the men complain that not only the kauri, but all the timber on the ground, is claimed, and accounts may be expected for the firewood use. Whoever owns the timber, other than the kauri, it will be very valuable, and it is in sufficient qualities to supply a colony with firewood and mining timber. " 
( 23/10/1875)

Kaeaeranga Creek water race works on side -   early 1970's photo taken by H.T. Gorrie 
courtesy from Gwen Buttle photo album. PLEASE DO NOT COPY - seek permission to use
By the early 1870's the Kauaeranga Valley had also become a place where a major kauri felling and logging operations took place - providing as well as kauri timber for the water race, timber for mines needing props and railways needing sleepers. The growing town of Auckland was an insatiable recipient of kauri timber for building of commercial and residential buildings. Likewise the towns of the South Island.

Knox, Thomas W. 1889. The Boy Travellers in Australasia. New York: Harper & Brothers. Accessed 03 12, 2019.  p199
Stone brothers built a steam driven mill at Shortland - near the mouth of the Kauaeranga - named the Shortland Saw Mill Company ( Ltd). This was one of the largest sawmillers drawing log supplies from the Kauaeranga Valley.

                              In Kirk, T. F.L.S. The Forest Flora of New Zealand. Wellington: Government Printers, 1889 Kauri logs on skid site

Tracks and trails wound their way alongside the Kauaeranga River and up the sides of the tributary creeks (aka streams)  leading into the Kauaeranga. " The Billy Goat Bush," Mangakirikiri, Mangarehu, Wainora, Hotoritori giving access to cutting operations. Along with rolling roads aka corduroy roads, rafter dams were constructed to hold the water and when tripped bought down the kauri logs in a drive.
Wainora Stream near Wainora Camp Kauaeranga 2010 - photo courtesy Chris Ball

In the early 1880's economic conditions were grim with a depression and timber mills were affected by this. Several years after the death of C J Stone,  of the Stone brothers ,(also one of the founders of the New Zealand Insurance Company)  there was a change in Kauaeranga felling and logging operations.July 1888 saw the giant,newly formed Kauri Timber Company Limited , take  over the operations. 

         Kirk, T. F.L.S. The Forest Flora of New Zealand. Wellington: Government Printers, 1889 Logs on a Rolling Road  from a photograph by Foy Brothers example of rolling road or corduroy road to bring kauri logs down in difficult areas
The negotiation brokers for acquisition initially of this giant conglomerate of mills, bush cutting leases, tramways and shipping vessels were Stewart and Garlick based in Auckland. Andrew Stewart and Richard Knight Garlick had been approached by David Blair in November 1887 with his business plans. By July when the prospectus for this conglomerate was published,  many of these plans had already been put on place.
Auckland Star 16 July 1888 p 3 col 1 courtesy Papers Past National Library NZ
Included in the many mills and operations were that of Hikutaia - Messrs David Blair and son:-  

"MESSRS DAVID BLAIR AND SON, of Hikutaia, Thames River, and Market street Melbourne, with Forests, Freehold and Leasehold Lands, Wharves, and Booms and their Kauri Timber and other New Zealand business as a going concern, without any charge for goodwill. This purchase includes the Barques “ Grassmere’ and “ Killarney,” and several Boats, Punts, and Rafting-gear, but not Mr David Blair’s business in timbers not imported from New Zealand. Messrs Blair and Son are bound by their agreement not to engage in business connected with Kauri or other New Zealand Timber for ten years" ( Evening Star  18/ 06/ 1888)   

One of the major mills and properties purchased was Stones’ Shortland mill and
the cutting leases in the Kauaeranga Valley, including the Hihi valley. By November 1888 Robert Blair owned the Shortland Mill with Mr. Henry Cameron Gillespie acting as manager. New areas for cutting were opened up - the Piraunui Stream, the Wainora Stream and the sides of Te Kohatu-whakairi-a-Ngatoroirangi ( Table Mountain).
Te Kohatu-whakairi-a-Ngatoroirangi ( Table Mountain) from Kauaeranga River near Catley's Camp 2010 -
 photo courtesy Chris Ball
The sudden death of Henry Cameron Gillespie September 1902 saw John Read appointed agent of the Thames district for the Kauri Timber Company Ltd by the year following September 1903.

By the end of 1908, the Kauri Timber Company Limited ( Auckland) were advertising the Shortland Mill for tender or removal - particulars to be seen at Auckland Office or John Read at the Shortland Mill, Thames ( by then in a different location )

In the first decade of the 1900's  change was " in the wind." Concerns were being voiced even more about the rapid disappearance of New Zealands native forests and the impacts upon land and soils. In 1909 the Department of lands reporting to the House of Representatives on forestry wrote:-
" For obvious reasons, such as climatic, soil - protection, river and water conservation, scenery-preservation, and etc  it is absolutely imperative that large areas should permanently remain covered with forest, and, although it is usually the case that such areas are the most remote from market and on the roughest country, yet, owing to the annual shrinkage in timber-supplies, the sawmiller may ere long cast covetous eyes on many large areas of forest included in column 4 that it is imperative to retain in their natural state"  ( AJHR 1909 C-04)

Kauaeranga River near Totara Camp 2010  with bush clad slopes ( secondary growth - photo courtesy Chris Ball

 The Commission on Timber and Timber Industries reporting also in 1909 to the House of Representatives : - 

" In the Auckland Province, where kauri is worked, different methods obtain. Formerly a large proportion of the logs were hauled to the mills or to tidal waters by locomotives or horses over tramways, or by bullocks over " skidded roads." By these means logs were delivered at the mills green, and in long lengths. Now nearly all the forest accessible by tram or " skidded road " has been worked out, and logs are hauled, " jacked," or delivered by means of " shutes " into a suitable creek, usually into a branch or tributary of some large stream, where they remain until by means of specially erected dams, " tripped " (or opened) when the streams are in flood, they are " driven " to booms erected in tidal waters. In large watersheds a number of dams on branch creeks are necessary, and often a very large dam is required in the main stream to " drive " the logs from the branch creeks. " ( AJHR, 1909, H-24)
This was so in the Kauaeranga Valley. The Kauri Timber Company, still owning the cutting leases and gaining more, decided they would build a tramline. This to assist the extraction and transport  of all the remaining kauri in the Kauaeranga valley. Begun in 1914, with construction by W.J. McCormick and begun again after World War One, the tramline ran between the main booms  and the old Parawai Booms.

Hoffman's Pool in 2010 - a favourite swimming spot for those camping and tramping in the Kauaeranga where some of the concrete foundations of the tramway can be seen. Photo courtesy Chris Ball

These years until about 1928 were the last big efforts at cutting and logging kauri. Tudor Collins, bushman and brother of Bert Collins (one of the largest bush contractors in the Kauaeranga), has a left a legacy of photographs of these last years. Life in the bush camps of the Kauaeranga and the logging operations.
Collins, Tudor Washington, 1898-1970. Timber workers and tree felling implements, Kauaeranga Valley. Ref: 1/2-028448-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23102654
Cutting and logging operations gave way to secondary bush growth and campers and trampers aka hikers began visiting the Kauaeranga Valley for recreation activities. One of these groups, the Auckland Tramping Club - ATC.
In the early 1930's the group visited the Kauaeranga valley, crossing over to Mercury Bay, via the old Kauaeranga track Easter of 1932.
Auckland Tramping Club in the Kauaeranga 1932 - photo courtesy  J M Stewart
Over the years Kauaeranga Valley became more and more popular with other tramping clubs and family groups camping and visiting the valley for day trips.

The Booms Track Kauaeranga Valley 20110 - photo courtesy Chris Ball
Today in 2019, there is a Department of Conservation visitors centre;a model dam showing us a part of the past when logging was the main activity in this valley;the well known track to the pinnacles well used by tourists from around the world;numerous camp grounds where once the logging camps were and relics in the bush of where once a part of our past history were dams which once were part of the kauri log driving down the valley.
Model kauri dam near the visitors centre 2010 - photo courtesy Chris Ball
Reference Source:
  • Hayward Bruce, Kauaeranga Kauri, The Lodestar Press, 1979
  •  Kirk, T. F.L.S. The Forest Flora of New Zealand. Wellington: Government Printers, 1889
  • Reed, A.H., The Story of the Kauri, Reed, Wellington NZ , 1953
  • By GARY STAPLES Kauri Timber Industry - Kauaeranga Valley Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 14, October 1970
  • C-04 DEPARTMENT OF LANDS: FORESTRY IN NEW ZEALAND. Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives  1909 Session II
  • H-24 TIMBER AND TIMBER-BUILDING INDUSTRIES (REPORT OF COMMISSION ON THE); TOGETHER WITH MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS AND OF EVIDENCE.  Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1 January 1909Thames Star  10 November 1874 Page 3
  • Mount Ida Chronicle 23 October 1875 Page 3
  • New Zealand Herald 6 February 1877  Page 2
  • Nelson Evening Mail  10 February 1877 Page 4
  • Thames Advertiser  29 February 1888  Page 2
  • Auckland Star 16 July 1888 p 3 col 1