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

Only Definite Flow at Waitangi in 1909

Only Definite Flow at Waitangi in 1909

Traces of oil were discovered in 1866 at two points within a band running from Mahia to East Cape. A Forest Ranger named Oscar Beyer stumbled across seepages in the Waipaoa Valley whilst he was out with a party of scouts looking for stray Hauhaus, and James Peachey gathered a bottle of oil from seepages on Omaika No. 1 block (a few miles south of Te Araroa) and took it to Auckland. Since 1874 over 30 wells have been sunk, at an aggregate cost of some hundreds of thousands of pounds, within the oil-band, but without striking a profitable flow.

The first company to engage in boring was the Poverty Bay Petroleum and Kerosene Co. Ltd. With others, Robert Cooper (who was the chief promoter) had obtained a lease of Pakake-o-Whirikoka block (6,334 acres). The directors were: Captain Read, W. A. Graham, J. H. Stubbs, W. Steuart, A. McDonald, W. S. Greene and J. W. Johnson. The Maoris were much amused when they learned that it was planned to put down a bore. They claimed that the oil was only on the surface where a whale which Rongokako had picked up whilst stepping from Mahia to Tapuae had slipped out of his hands!

In 1874 a shaft, 8 feet by 4 feet, was sunk, under the supervision of Mr. Parsons (a borer from Pennsylvania) on Waitangi Hill and close boarded. From the bottom a bore was put down 110 feet when—vide a report by H. A. Gordon (a State inspector) to the Under-Secretary for Mines (20/1/1888)—“a heavy pressure of gas from the bottom of the hole sent up showers of mud and water to the surface whenever the rods were withdrawn for the purpose of cleaning out the hole with the sandpump, so that this bore had, ultimately, to be abandoned.” Another bore was put down close by, but, again, no casing was used, and it also caved in. The company, which had spent about £5,000, then went into liquidation.

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The South Pacific Petroleum Co. (N.L.), which was formed in Sydney by W. Fleming (a Canadian oil expert) and W. Clark (a Melbourne broker), and which had a nominal capital of £58,916, took over the former company's rights. Between 1881 and 1885 it put down eight bores, ranging in depth from 100 feet to 300 feet, close to Waitangi Hill. In each case failure was attributed to the difficult nature of the strata and to the mistake of starting with casing too small in diameter. Early in 1885 a contract was let to W. J. Weaver (an American borer) to put down a larger bore to 1,000 feet. In July it was reported in Sydney that the well was producing 50 barrels of oil a day and that it was intended to lay a pipeline from the well to Gisborne. Victorian investors were told that it was intended to refine the oil at Melbourne.